Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah and Translated by Deborah Smith centres on (official blurb): “A seductive, disorienting story about parallel lives, unfolding over a day and a night in the sweltering heat of Seoul’s summer. For two years, 28-year-old Kim Ayami has worked at Seoul’s only audio theatre for the blind. But Ayami has just been made redundant, and thinking about the future feels like staring into the unknown. Open to anything, Ayami spends a night in the company of her former boss, searching for a mutual friend who has disappeared, and the following day looking after a visiting poet who turns out to be not what he seems. Walking the streets of the city with each man in turn, Ayami talks about art, love and the inaccessible country to the north. But in the sweltering heat of Seoul at the height of the summer, order gives way to chaos and the edges of reality start to fray, with Ayami becoming an unwitting guide to its increasingly tangled threads. Seductive, disorienting and wholly original, Untold Night and Dayasks whether more than one version of ourselves can exist at once – and shows why Bae Suah is considered one of the boldest and most original voices in Korean literature today.”
Whilst reading Untold Night and Day I had many thoughts and feelings towards it such as the fact it was bizarre, intense, surreal, disorienting, hypnotic, nostalgic a story that was full to the brim with magical realism and a complete fever dream.
This book seems too manifest a theme of parallel lives that not only run alongside each other but also intwine like a zigzag throughout each other. The lines between reality and fiction, past, present and future are completely blurred.
If I’m honest at times I had absolutely no idea what the hell was going on but strangely enough this story had such a compelling pull to it that I found myself turning page after page and before I realised it I had read 20 pages. You know them few moments between being still half asleep and being fully conscious well that’s exactly what the reading experience of this book was like. A state of mind where you were half in dreamscape and half in reality. You never quite knew what was real and what was not. You might even say a feeling of being in an alternative reality.
I’ve previously read two of Deborah Smith’s other translations: The White Book and The Vegetarian and once again she has done a brilliant job. I would really recommend reading the translator’s notes at the end as they are extremely insightful especially when it comes to the translators experiences.
(Photo is my own please do not copy/take without permission first).