Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah review – a dreamlike quest
24 FEBRUARY 2020
Night and Day was first published in Korea in 2013 and is the fourth of Bae Suah’s novels – which number more than a dozen – to be translated into English by Deborah Smith. It is also the first of her books to be published in the UK, arriving at a time when Korean culture is in the spotlight – with the recent success of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite at the Oscars and the launch of Connect, BTS – the K-pop band’s global art project.
A metaphysical detective story, Untold Night and Day is a meditation on the nature of seeking: what drives the quest to find and make something known? Bae’s beguiling story draws on ideas from Korean shamanism – an ancient multidimensional cosmology in which all things are – to venture in style and ambition far from the conventions of mystery narratives.At the heart of the dreamlike, loose plot is Ayami, who shares her name with “the spirit that enters the shaman’s body and communicates matters of the other world”. Over a night and day, in the hallucinatory heat of the Seoul summer, we follow Ayami on her for her missing friend. As the book progresses storylines echo one another and are braided into a multilayered fictional universe with extraordinary skill.