by Paul Yoon published in The Atlantic
Read original on The Atlantic's website
Maksim, a sixteen year old boy and the narrator of...Show description
Posted 694 days ago
This was a very cool story. I like The Atlantic's choice of stories, which seem to depart radically from the more "literary" stories published in The New Yorker, for example. Both publish excellent stories, of course, but The Atlantic's style is growing on me. The last story I read, Shanghai Murmur by Te-Ping Chen, was also excellent.
I liked how Person of Korea opened up our eyes to an entirely different world. It was almost epic in the way that Maksim went on a search for his father and found a boat to cross the Sea of Japan. Yet it also seemed really realistic and modern in his struggles as a worker on a farm that clearly exploits immigrants and their families. It seems like almost every country in the world has this sad reality.
But there is even another level of internationalization here: all of the immigrants that are working at the farms or the prison are "taking over" the land that was originally inhabited by the Nivkh People. Almost entirely parallel to the American immigrant's view of Native Americans, Maksim's father (a guard at the prison) indicates that the Nivkhs are the ones creating all the problems at the prison. Maskim had even run into some escapees and didn't know what language they are speaking. It's indicative of human nature, or colonialization at least, that in almost the entire opposite end of the globe, in an entirely different mixture of cultures and people, that a similar relationship between the indigenous people and colonizers appears.
Yoon's story is at the same time a cheerful and gloomy one. Following a sixteen year old kid gives us a sense of wonder at the world, but it also shows us the sad and depressing reality of it. A very good story well worth the read. Glad that The Atlantic is publishing this sort of fiction, as it's hard to find anything like it in other mainstream magazines or journals.