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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Nowhere to Be Found

Bae Suah

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To purchase Nowhere to Be Found

Title: Nowhere to Be Found
Author: Bae Suah
Genre: Novel
Written: 1998 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 103 pages
Original in: Korean
Availability: Nowhere to Be Found - US
Nowhere to Be Found - UK
Nowhere to Be Found - Canada
Nowhere to Be Found - India
  • Korean title: 철수
  • Translated by Sora Kim-Russell

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Our Assessment:

A- : sharp little novella

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The National . 30/4/2015 Joanna Walsh

  From the Reviews:
  • "This is a book about the frozen feelings. Cold is a recurring adjective. (...) Bae dissolves conventional ­linear narrative, as though it were impossible for cause and effect to exist concurrently with such repression." - Joanna Walsh, The National

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Much of what the narrator of Nowhere to Be Found recounts is retrospective: "That was everything that happened in 1988", she notes late in the book, when she's nearly finished with her story. It was a decisive year -- "my beginning and my end", she claims -- even though what she recounts of her life here is not particularly eventful.
       In her early twenties in 1988, she is in a limbo between school-age and adult life. She opens her account: "In 1988 I was temping at a university in Gyeonggi Province", already suggesting this in-between world of not being in any way settled. In fact, she also works other jobs -- and she's the only one in her family earning any money. She has an older brother and a younger sister -- the siblings each born a decade apart, adding to a general sense of generational disconnection; her family seems like "a random collection of people", she sometimes thinks.
       She describes her work, exchanges -- real and imagined -- with a part-time instructor of sociology at the university, and her not-quite-boyfriend, Cheolsu, among other things. Cheolsu is doing his military service, and she goes to visit him, a trip that mirrors her everyday frustrations and confusions and goes from bad to worse. At least she knows with certainty by the end of it that she rejects the: "formulaic lives" of Cheolsu and his mother.
       If the narrator of Nowhere to Be Found is adrift, her observations and descriptions are penetratingly sharp. In the scenes and exchanges she describes she captures her very different family members and the others she encounters superbly. The alcoholic mother, the bright young sister and her changing interests, the desperate older brother, setting off for a janitorial job in Japan: they are all quickly sketched and yet contribute to the deeper, bigger picture.
       If 1988 was decisive for her, the narrator nevertheless admits to little change: 1978, 1998, she suggests are little different. So also who she encounters: of every- and any-one, she finds:

They were never anything more than who they were. Third person random
       Nowhere to Be Found is a compact, personal account of anomie and withdrawal in a time of rapid social and economic change (something that bubbles constantly in the novel-background). The narrative conveys the sense of drift -- in part in its very precision. With few wasted words or scenes -- even as many of the events she describes and her observations can seem, superficially, to be almost trivial -- Nowhere to Be Found is an easily digested short book that nevertheless feels much very substantial -- a very full story.
       Impressive, and well worthwhile.

- M.A.Orthofer, 16 March 2015

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Nowhere to Be Found: Reviews: Other books by Bae Suah under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Korean author Bae Suah (배수아) was born in 1965.

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© 2015-2021 the complete review

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