At Dusk

by Hwang Sok-Yong

Other authorsSora Kim-Russell (Translator)
Paperback, 2019




Scribe US (2019), Edition: US edition, 192 pages


Park Minwoo is, by every measure, a success story. Born into poverty in a miserable neighborhood of Seoul, he has ridden the wave of development in a rapidly modernizing society. Now the director of a large architectural firm, his hard work and ambition have brought him triumph and satisfaction. But when his company is investigated for corruption, he's forced to reconsider his role in the transformation of his country. At the same time, he receives an unexpected message from an old friend, Cha Soona, a woman that he had once loved, and then betrayed. As memories return unbidden, Minwoo recalls a world he thought had been left behind--a world he now understands that he has helped to destroy.

User reviews

LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
"The days of our youth are probably now nothing but photographs in some treasured album, yellowing and fading like memories over time."

Park Minwoo is a successful Seoul architect in his 60's, though he grew up in one of the shantytowns on the hills surrounding the city. As he ages, he begins to
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look back on his past, and how he got to where he is today. He thinks frequently of his first love, the daughter of the noodle-maker in the shantytown. As teenagers, they bonded over a mutual love of reading and the desire for an education. They have been out of touch for years, when he receives a cryptic message from her.

In sections that alternate with Minwoo's story, we get the story of a young woman struggling to get by in present day Seoul (both sections are in the first person). She works days as a playwright/director/jack-of-all-trades at fringe urban theater (generally unpaid), and then rushes to her all-night job as a convenience store clerk before heading home for a few hours of sleep in a mold-infested basement.

As the sections progress, we wonder how these two lives will intersect.

I liked this quiet introspective novel quite a lot. It seems to give a realistic and detailed look at what life is like for many in present day Seoul. I would like to read more by this author.

3 1/2 stars
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PEN Translation Prize (Longlist — 2020)
The International Booker Prize (Longlist — 2019)


Original language



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