On the surface, Ha Seong-nan’s stories seem pleasant enough, yet there’s something disturbing just below the surface, ready to permanently disrupt the characters’ lives.
A woman meets her next-door neighbor and loans her a spatula, then starts suffering horrific gaps in her memory. A man, feeling jilted by an unrequited love, becomes obsessed with sorting through his neighbors’ garbage in the belief that it will teach him how to better relate to people. A landlord decides to raise the rent, and his tenants hatch a plan to kill him at a team-building retreat.
In ten captivating, unnerving stories,Flowers of Mold presents a range of ordinary individuals—male and female, young and old—who have found themselves left behind by an increasingly urbanized and fragmented world. The latest in the trend of brilliant female Korean authors to appear in English, Ha cuts like a surgeon, and even the most mundane objects become menacing and unfamiliar under her scalpel.
Ha Seong-Nan was born in Seoul in 1967 and made her literary debut in 1996, after her graduation from the Seoul Institute of the Arts. She is the author of five short story collections—includingBluebeard's First Wife andThe Woman Next Door—and three novels. Over her career, she's received a number of prestigious awards, such as the Dongin Literature Award in 1999, Hankook Ilbo Literature Prize in 2000, the Isu Literature Prize in 2004, the Oh Yeong-su Literary Award in 2008, and the
Contemporary Literature (Hyundae Munhak) Award in 2009.
Janet Hong is a writer and translator based in Vancouver, Canada. Her work has appeared inBrick: A Literary Journal, Lit Hub, Asia Literary Review, Words Without Borders, and theKorea Times. She has received PEN American Center’s PEN/Heim Translation Fund, the Modern Korean Literature Translation Award, and grants from English PEN, LTI Korea, and the Daesan Foundation. Her translations include Han Yujoo’sThe Impossible Fairy Tale, Ancco’sBad Friends, and Ha Seong-nan’sFlowers of Mold. She also translates works by Bae Suah and Kim Soom, among others.
"If you're looking for a book that will make you gasp out loud, you’ve found it."—Kirkus Reviews
"Wrapped up in fantasy or dreams, these men, women, and children are often confused over what is and isn’t real, the reader seeing before they do how their anxious yearning will go unfulfilled."—Laura Adamczyk,The A.V. Club
"Be forewarned: it might make you reconsider your interest in your neighbors, because it could lead to obsession and madness—or something odder and less reassuring than a tidy end, of which there are few in this wonderfully unsettling book of 10 masterful short stories."—John Yau,Hyperallergic
"Joining a growing cohort of notable Korean imports, Ha’s dazzling, vaguely intertwined collection of 10 stories is poised for Western acclaim.” —Booklist, starred review
"This impressive collection reveals Ha’s close attention to the eccentricities of life, and is sure to earn her a legion of new admirers."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Ha's ability to find startling traits in seemingly unremarkable characters makes each story a small treasure."—Shelf Awareness
"These mesmerizing stories of disconnection and detritus unfurl with the surreal illogic of dreams—it’s as impossible to resist their pull as it is to understand, in retrospect, how circumstance succeeded circumstance to finally deliver the reader into a moment as indelible as it is unexpected. Janet Hong’s translation glitters like a blade.”—Susan Choi
"Flowers of Mold shows Ha Seong-nan to be a master of the strange story. Here, things almost happen and the weight of their almost happening hangs over the narrative like a threat. Or they do happen, and then characters go on almost like they haven't, much to the reader's dismay. Or a story builds up and then, where most authors would pursue things to the last fraying thread of their narrative, Ha elegantly severs the rest of the story and delicately ties it off. And as you read more of these stories, theybegin to chime within one another, creating a sense of deja-vu. In any case, one is left feeling unsettled, as if something is not right with the world—or, rather (and this latter option becomes increasingly convincing), as if something is not right withyou."—Brian Evenson
"Brilliantly crafted with precision and compassion, Ha Seong-nan's heartbreaking collection dives into the depths of human vulnerability, where hopes and dreams are created and lost, where ordinary life gains mythological status. A truly gifted writer."—Nazanine Hozar, author ofAria
"I’m raving about this book. . . . It is brilliant, modern, and surprising."—Charles Montgomery
"Her characters are trying their best to get by, and I found them deeply sympathetic, but they often face obstacles they just do not know how to confront. The stories are beautiful, inventive, gorgeously-written, and often heart-wrenching."—Rebecca Hussey,Book Riot
"A sinister collection of short stories that really gets into your head—a series of crushed dreams and failed promises and social decay that is at once oppressively real and strangely cold.—Jeff Waxman,Literary Hub
"As horror and art continue to steal and mix with each other, I’m sure we’ll find more—on both sides of the aisle—that continue to push the envelope.Flowers of Mold pushes that envelope with its impressive style and stifling isolation, creating something that’s as strange as it is incisive."—Carson Winter,Signal Horizon
"In these stories, readers will find tales of alienation and unruly behavior that will likely jar them as much as any narrative of sinister creatures and haunted spaces."—Tobias Carroll,Words Without Borders
"These aren’t bedtime stories. Indeed, reading them before bed might not be a good idea at all."—Peter Gordon,Asian Review of Books
"Here is, undoubtedly, one of the best translated short story collections of 2019."—Books and Bao
"Ha is a master of the short story and hooks the reader without revealing or resolving too much too cleanly."—Arkansas International
"Flowers of Mold offers readers an alternative perspective on city life, relationships, and ambition; and while it may be dark and unrelenting, it is also hauntingly lyrical."—Rachel S. Cordasco,World Literature Today