Han Kang’s “I Do Not Bid Farewell” wins prestigious Prix Medicis literary prize for foreign literature

Posted on : 2023-11-10 17:21 KST Modified on : 2023-11-10 17:21 KST
Han becomes the first Korean writer to win the award; her novel was translated from Korean into French by Kyungran Choi and Pierre Bisiou
Writer Han Kang. (photo copyright Jun Yesl)
Writer Han Kang. (photo copyright Jun Yesl)

The novel “I Do Not Bid Farewell” by South Korean writer Han Kang was selected Thursday to receive the Prix Medicis for foreign literature, a prestigious French literary prize.

French daily newspaper Le Progrès and other overseas media reported Tuesday that the jury of the Prix Medicis had announced its selection of the winners in Paris.

Established in 1970, the Prix Medicis is considered one of France’s top four literary prizes alongside the Prix Femina, the Prix Goncourt and the Prix Renaudot.

Han is the first Korean writer to have won the Prix Medicis. Previous winners of the foreign language category of this prize include major global writers such as Milan Kundera, Umberto Eco, Paul Auster and Orhan Pamuk.

“I Do Not Bid Farewell,” published in 2021, delves into the tragedy of the Jeju April 3 Incident from the perspective of three women.

The Jeju April 3 Incident was a bloody period of Korean modern history that began with a 1948 uprising against the US military government-imposed elections. That uprising was suppressed with deadly force by South Korean police reserves, troops, and right-wing youth organizations — violence that led to the indiscriminate slaughter of many Jeju residents.

In the book’s introduction, Han writes, “When someone asked me a few years ago what I would be writing about next, I remember saying I hoped it would be a novel about love. That’s how I feel now, too. I hope this will be a novel about love in the extreme.”

The French edition of this book, which was translated by Kyungran Choi and Pierre Bisiou, was published this past August in French under the title “Impossibles Adieux.”

“In this book, the author takes a dive into her country’s bloody past,” wrote French newspaper Le Figaro in its review of the novel.

Han had been previously nominated for the Prix Medicis for foreign literature in 2017 for her novel “Greek Lessons.”

French newspaper Le Monde remarked on Han’s “very realistic writing that reveals the interiority and mental landscape of the main female character through dream sequences.”

The jury of the Prix Medicis selected the novel “Misericórdia” by Portuguese writer Lídia Jorge as a co-winner of the foreign literature prize alongside Han’s “Impossibles Adieux.”

By Hong Seock-jae, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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