The Ancient Garden

Hwang Sok-yong

Oh Hyun Woo, a political activist, has served nearly twenty years of a life sentence, but when the Korean government relaxes its stance on such dissidents, he finds himself up for release. As he was growing old on the inside, though, things on the outside changed, and he is soon adrift in a world full of noise and activity, multi-storey apartment blocks and mobile phones. Struggling to adjust to the present and consider his future, Mr Oh is also forced to examine the past: family members he’s lost; friends he’s no longer in touch with; comrades who have died or moved on – and the loss of the love of his life. It may have been two decades since they were together, but some relationships leave their mark no matter what. Both a haunting love story and an insightful account of life in modern Korea, THE ANCIENT GARDEN (Oraedoen jeongwon) is a tantalising tale of loss, regret and expectation; and about how some things are simply meant to be, even when – tragically – events prove otherwise.

‘Hwang Sok-yong, one of South Korea’s most important modern writers, poignantly shows us that history is also a story of how individuals live, love and sacrifice in the tumult of time.’ Krys Lee, author of Drifting House

‘Hwang Sok-yong has given contemporary world literature a beautiful gift. Written in a voice that is utterly humanistic, The Old Gardencombines multiple narratives that resonate on the levels of the historical, political, and aesthetic. Hwang’s masterful command of the novelistic form is evident in his ability to be simultaneously intimate and worldly. Without a doubt, The Old Garden will be seen as the definitive novel of Korea’s Gwangju generation.’ Jeff Shroeder, guitarist for the Smashing Pumpkins


  • Changbi Korea
  • Seven Stories USA (2012)
  • Picador UK & Commonwealth (2009)
  • Editions Zulma France
  • Bonniers Sweden
  • Ink & Shanghai Translation China

Material: Korean, US, UK and Swedish editions (539pp)