Monday, August 14, 2017

The Accusation by Bandi

This is a fascinating collection of short stories.  It was smuggled out of North Korea and is apparently the first fiction work from North Korea written by someone who is still living under the repressive regime.  The author, not surprisingly, used a pseudonym.

Each short story paints a horrifying picture of the oppression ordinary people in North Korea abide.  Their every move is under surveillance - both overt and covert.  Their present and futures are wholly dictated by the actions (or even perceived actions) of their ancestors.  They suffer from acute hunger. They are forced to suffer even further if any event involving the leader makes its way to their small villages - in one story they are held prisoner in a crowded train station so the tracks can be kept clear for the leader's arrival; in another they must join rallies and celebrations in his honour (even with a toddler who is terrified of the monstrous propaganda posters); and in yet another they are forced to gather flowers in muddy hills to ensure there are sufficient flowers to place on memorials following the death of one leader.  The stories span life under all three generations of this dictatorial regime.

The author also shows the tremendous lengths which the regime goes to in order to brainwash its citizens into believing their lives are superior to those in any other country.  Clearly if the author writes so tellingly, these efforts have failed with him and undoubtedly countless others.

While the writing is at times a little unusual, the book is worth reading just for its historical and political value.

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