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Monday, January 9, 2012

Kim Jong-il Dies Just in Time for Adam Johnson's Novel About North Korea

Posted on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Kim Jong-il
  • Kim Jong-il

It might seem like slightly odd timing to release a novel that includes a fictionalized narrative by Kim Jong-il, seeing that the self-described "Dear Leader" of North Korea recently died. Then again, maybe it's the best time. The specter of Kim will long hang over the people he ruled, and it will continue to loom large in the Western imagination, considering North Korea is such a secretive nation that's also a nuclear threat - and the little we know about Kim points to his being a fabulously bizarre individual.

Fortunately, Adam Johnson is a nuanced and generous author with an understated wit, and his debut novel The Orphan Master's Son will probably enjoy a longer life than the dictator. Johnson appears Tuesday night at The Booksmith.

Adam Johnson - ROMS69
  • Roms69
  • Adam Johnson

Inspired by Johnson's research for his unfinished satirical short story "The Best North Korean Short Story of 2005," The Orphan Master's Son follows the life of Jun Do, an average North Korean who serves in a work camp and also works as a state-sanctioned kidnapper. He impersonates a government minister while evading the ever-present threat of execution.

Demonstrating a literary playfulness that recalls David Mitchell's fiction, The Orphan Master's Son interweaves Jun Do's story and the official account of Kim Jong-il and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Johnson traveled to North Korea to research the novel, giving The Orphan Master's Son a firsthand verisimilitude and offering Western readers a rare glimpse into a world that remains tantalizingly isolated and strange.

Adam Johnson appears at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 10) at The Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Belvedere), S.F. Admission is free.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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