Published by Grove Press on March 7, 2017
Genres: literary fiction, short stories
The Accusation is a deeply moving and eye-opening work of fiction that paints a powerful portrait of life under the North Korean regime. Set during the period of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il’s leadership, the seven stories that make up The Accusation give voice to people living under this most bizarre and horrifying of dictatorships. The characters of these compelling stories come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from a young mother living among the elite in Pyongyang whose son misbehaves during a political rally, to a former Communist war hero who is deeply disillusioned with the intrusion of the Party into everything he holds dear, to a husband and father who is denied a travel permit and sneaks onto a train in order to visit his critically ill mother. Written with deep emotion and writing talent, The Accusation is a vivid depiction of life in a closed-off one-party state, and also a hopeful testament to the humanity and rich internal life that persists even in such inhumane conditions.
This was a really interesting collection of short stories, written by an anonymous North Korean author mostly in the early 1990s. The stories take place both before and after the death of Kim Il-Sung and during the beginning of the North Korean famine. I thought it did a great job of illustrating the oppression that most people in North Korea were living under at that time (and likely are still living under), where you can get in trouble for something as small as closing your curtains at the wrong time so your toddler isn’t frightened, and where any infraction could stain the reputations of even your youngest grandchildren.
The story of how the book was smuggled out of North Korea could almost be its own book.
I read this for the following reading challenges:
- 2021 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge — a book that was published anonymously
- “At the same time, although it’s difficult to fully assess the degree of realism or authenticity in these stories, there is also much more outright criticism than I was expecting, especially considering the enormous risks Bandi has taken in putting these stories down on paper.” — A Little Blog of Books
- “So–should you read this book? Sure. For the insight on everyday life in North Korea, for the wonderfully tactile imagery, and for “On the Stage”. And as a act of solidarity towards an oppressed author and his people, however small and ultimately symbolic it may be.” — Strange Bookfellows
- “The stories themselves are vehicles for the passionate accusation against an unjust government. Each follows a similar structure of conformity to the unspoken rules followed by a realisation of their inhumanity.” — Shoshi’s Book Blog