Mater 2-10

Hwang Sok-yong

Mater 2-10

‘This is the story of my hometown with childhood memories, and it is also the story of contemporary workers. I would like to dedicate this novel to Korean workers by filling in a void in Korean literature… I wanted to trace the past 100 years of how their dreams have been transformed and distorted, and reveal the roots of their lives.’ Hwang Sok-yong

‘A masterpiece of Korean history: This epic political novel traces the country from Japanese occupation through partition, as experienced by a family of railway workers… Not only does he breathe life into vivid protagonists, but the novel so inhabits their perspective that we share the shock and disbelief as their hard-won freedom is snatched away.’ The Guardian

Hwang’s new novel unfurls at full speed. The story of three generations of railroad workers from Lee Ji-chul to Yi Jino, his great-grandson and factory worker in current times, who is left high and dry by his employers and protests by occupying the top of the sixteen-story factory chimney. During the cold and long nights, he talks to his ancestors and friends, chewing on the meaning of life, on wisdom passed down the generations.

Hwang has here achieved something rare – a novel that reflects the lives of modern industrial workers, presenting their roots through lives spanning over a hundred years and bringing those characters missing from our literary history, to the fore. The culmination of his life’s work, it showcases Hwang at his best: bridging political struggle with literature.

‘Mater 2-10, like Hwang Sok-yong’s previously translated novels, Familiar Things and the Booker-longlisted At Dusk, shows a writer with panoramic range on societal issues, who still retains a compassionate touch with human stories at a more intimate level.’ Irish Times

‘The male narrative of the three generations of railroad workers is complemented by female narratives. In particular, in the flooded Yeongdeungpo area, the legendary performance of Juandaek, who saved people and goods with superhuman strength and wisdom, and outstanding wit, and Shingeumi’s magical powers and foresight, prevent this novel from being confined to rigid realism. The depiction of the old times around Yeongdeungpo, where the author’s own childhood memories dwell, makes even readers who have nothing to do with the time and space immerse themselves.’ The Hankyoreh newspaper

‘A cross-section of the 100-year history of the Korean Peninsula woven by Hwang Sok-yong, a world-renowned master beyond Korea.’ Seoul Shinmum


  • Changbi Korea
  • Scribe World English
  • Editions Philippe Picquier France
  • Alianza World Spanish
  • Hakusuisha Japan
  • Ombra Albania
  • Pi Press Arabic

Material: Finished copies and PDF of the Korean edition (600pp), synopsis in English