About this book
Bandi • Deborah SmithReader's Guide ↓
Authored by an anonymous writer and smuggled out of North Korea, The Accusation is the first work of fiction to come out of the country and a moving portrayal of life under a totalitarian regime.
In 1989, a North Korean dissident writer, known to us only by the pseudonym Bandi, began to write a series of stories about life under Kim Il-sung’s totalitarian regime. Smuggled out of North Korea and published around the world, The Accusation provides a unique and shocking window into this most secretive of countries.
Bandi’s profound, deeply moving, vividly characterized stories tell of ordinary men and women facing the terrible absurdity of daily life in North Korea: a factory supervisor caught between loyalty to an old friend and loyalty to the Party; a woman struggling to feed her husband through the great famine; the staunch Party man whose actor son reveals to him the theatre that is their reality; the mother raising her child in a world where the all-pervasive propaganda is the very stuff of childhood nightmare.
The Accusation is a heartbreaking portrayal of the realities of life in North Korea. It is also a reminder that humanity can sustain hope even in the most desperate of circumstances — and that the courage of free thought has a power far beyond those who seek to suppress it.
About the Creators
BANDI, which means “firefly” in Korean, is a pseudonym for a writer who is still living in his homeland of North Korea, and who wrote these stories in secret. The Accusation is his only published book to date.
DEBORAH SMITH is a British translator of Korean fiction. She translated The Vegetarian by Korean author Han Kang, for which she and the author were co-winners of the Man Booker International Prize in 2016. After graduating from the University of Cambridge, Smith began learning Korean in 2010. She founded Tilted Axis Press, a non-profit publishing house focusing on contemporary fiction specifically from Asia. She is currently a research fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Awards and Praise
Praise for Bandi and The Accusation:
A GLOBE AND MAIL TOP 100 BOOK
NATIONAL POST 99 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
“An absorbing story collection.” — New York Times
“Searing fiction by an anonymous dissident … A fierce indictment of life in the totalitarian North.” ? New York Times
“The Accusation continues to make international history as the first literary work smuggled out of repressive North Korea … Illuminating stories that reveal desperate lives enduring terrifying day-to-day challenges … British translator Smith … expertly delivers Bandi's subversive prose with nuanced grace … As Bandi's characters
both fear and sling accusations, the title takes on piercing gravitas for readers.” ? Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
“Smuggled out of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 25 years after being written, this pseudonymous collection covers the final years of the rule of Kim Il-sung. Depicting everyday citizens trying to make the best of a bad situation, The Accusation gives a human face to the people living under a brutal regime.” ? National Post
“The Accusation shines a light on the dark half of the Korean peninsula with stories that are as readable as they are important … If these stories are an exorcism for the author, they are a revelation for us; The Accusation is fiction, but it is fiction that screams truth. Like its great literary predecessor One Day in the Life of IvanDenisovich, The Accusation is a powerful work that seems destined to serve as the go-to example, and indictment, of life in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.” ? National Post
“All we can do is to read these 'accusations.' Only that will save the writer who wrote and sent them out into the world at the risk of his own life.” ? Kyung-Sook Shin, New York Times bestselling author of Please Look After Mom
“This is an extraordinary tale of ordinary people in North Korea … A highly readable, nuanced, credible picture of a country where ordinary people go about their lives treading around the regime, and sometimes bumping into it.” ? BBC World Service
“A collection of courageous and confounding short stories … expertly translated by Deborah Smith … Shows similarities of both quality and content to stories by authors as various as Gorky, Solzhenitsyn, and Chen Ruoxi, or even Chinese contemporaries such as Yan Lianke … Vivid and uncompromising storytelling.” ? New Statesman
“These short works offer powerful insights into a world behind walls … In its scope and courage, The Accusation is an act of great love.” ? Guardian
“The Accusation takes us across a deep cultural and political border … The stories, written between 1989 and 1995, constitute a passionate J'accuse … Shines a necessary light on what remains one of the darkest places on Earth.” — Hamilton Spectator
“A rare piece of fiction from one of the world's most repressive regimes … A dramatic page-turner.” ? Quartz
“For readers interested in a candid look at life in North Korea, The Accusation … will immerse you via the stories of common folk.” ? Millions
“With these uncompromising stories, the pseudonymous Bandi gives a rare glimpse of life in the ‘truly fathomless darkness’ of North Korea … An endnote about how Bandi's collection was smuggled out of the country reveals just how miraculous it is that it exists at all.” ? Publishers Weekly
“Fugitive fiction ? literally ? from inside North Korea, devastatingly critical of the Kim dynasty and its workers’ paradise … There is a streak of satire in these stories, but mostly they are grimly realistic … Certainly the author has access to the broad sweep of North Korean society, from industrial workers and farmers to midlevel political functionaries … An important document of witness.” ? Kirkus Reviews
“No fiction beyond a trickle of agitprop has passed beyond North Korea's borders, and of course dissident voices are suppressed altogether. When it was smuggled out, this story collection became an international publishing sensation.” ? Library Journal
“Well-crafted stories … The Accusation is a haunting, disturbing collection … worthwhile.” ? Complete Review
“[A] slim, powerful volume.” ? Week
“Bandi's writing style is markedly different from that of Western fiction … The rather bare-bones, bracing style fits the stories told. Their content has so much implicit drama and heartache, there's no need to elaborate … The Accusation is a quick read … Worthy of attention.” ? Crime Fiction Lover
“[A] remarkable collection of stories … Revealing the terrible truth of living in a country where any freedoms are curtailed, where famine and brutality are rife, but where human belief and hope can survive any odds, this is a defining read for 2017.” ? Emerald Street
“The Accusation courageously speaks for millions of people who collectively long for a life of peace.” ? Culture Trip
“A collection of short stories written under a pseudonym and smuggled out of North Korea is on its way to becoming an international literary sensation, with its agent fielding offers from around the world for an author who is being labelled the North Korean Solzhenitsyn.” — Alison Flood, Guardian
“Plunges us into the daily life of families in North Korea. These stories are the cry of a man suffocated by totalitarianism. These are also the cry of an entire people who have been broken under the yoke of North Korean communism … The author makes use of storytelling, poetry, humour, and even the burlesque to aid his condemnation of these unbearable injustices. The writing is simple, humble, which gives it its beauty. The seven novellas shine with humanity and tenderness.” — Aleteia
“This collection of novellas that the author managed to extract from his country is of incredible value … The classic construction reminds us of Gogol and Chekhov, and for their taste for absurdist satire, Ionesco and Bulgakov.” — Books Magazine
“Describes in very impressionistic, subtle, almost veiled tones, if I may, the daily life of a dictatorship … The book gives a human face, gives stories and images, to the sufferings of North Koreans … I was almost groggy by the time I finished reading, reminding myself of just how lucky I am to live in a democracy … I thought of Orwell and Kafka but realized that the country described here really exists and that there are people who are living there, perhaps not even knowing that a different kind of life is possible.” — L’express
“Bandi, a pseudonym that means ‘firefly,’ has achieved the unthinkable — offering a testimony on the dictatorial regime of North Korea while remaining in situ … In the same way as the works of Solzhenitsyn in their time, Bandi’s writing reminds us of the perennial necessity of battling censorship, whatever the cost.” — L’amour des livres
“This author is completely unknown and would like to stay that way. He continues to live in a country that is held fast by an iron fist, putting his life at risk by writing. He describes, not without humor, the ordinary life of this dictatorship, the extreme misery there, and the surveillance networks that have been put in place by the regime, which make everyone into a potential spy or informant.” — Mag Dimanche
“Even if one did not know anything about the writer or the way the manuscript was smuggled out of the country, it would not diminish the fact that the force of this collection of novellas evokes the classics of world literature about totalitarianism.” — L’ours
“A message in a bottle that is so precious that we should all reach out to grab it and better understand the tragedy of the last Marxist regime in the world.” — Le Revenu
“Stories of simple people that are humiliated and beaten down for absurd reasons, watched over by grotesque henchmen and toadying neighbors, arrested and punished by a dictatorship that has held the country under its heel for six decades. A book to burst the silence.” — La Vie
“This rare collection offers seven moving novellas, snapshots of a country where nothing normal ever leaks out … A far cry from the grandiloquent, ridiculous images that are thrown out by the Kim Jong-Un regime, The Accusation offers the opportunity to discover a moving portrait of a secret country, a forgotten land where humanity only asks to try to triumph.” — Lire
“No one could imagine that it could be at all comical to live in a dictatorship, but in describing the limitless absurdity of the system, Bandi sometimes makes the reader give out a nervous laugh … A fragile hint of light in a country that confuses democracy with obscurantism.” — L’Alsace
“Each of these stories shows a different aspect of the remorseless dictatorship … With a fierce sense of irony and a deeply dark humor, Bandi denounces totalitarianism, the divisions in North Korean society, and the absurdity and corruption of the one party system.” — La Grande Parade
“Stories written with a great humanity, the work of a true writer.” — Lecturama.fr
“Magnificently humane and tender, The Accusation is a profound read that shines a spotlight on the ordinary people living in the darkest of lands. It is also a staggering indictment of the deceit and falsehood that is today’s North Korea. A mournful, deeply felt, and necessary read. It will change you.” — Irina Kovalyova, author of Specimen
“Bandi’s collection of short stories are well crafted parable-like portraits of people struggling to trust and yearning to create meaning as they navigate their way through the sterile, Kafkaesque landscape of 1990s North Korea. More stories like these may crumble the regime.” — Ins Choi, author of Kim’s Convenience