Bora Chung’s short story collection Cursed Bunny, translated by Anton Hur, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize
Everything Korean is vogue now — Kpop to Kdrama. The world seems to romantacise the life and lisfetyle of Koreans. However, Korean literature, which has been enjoying a growing readership lately, has a different story to tell. It reveals a dark and brutal world which is polar opposite to the one potrayed by popular culture. Case in point, Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, which has been shortlisted for The Booker Prize this year.
Cursed Bunny is a collection of 10 short stories where each tale feelsmore unreal than the previous. Translated by Anton Hur, the book isfilled with horror and magical realism, defying all expectations and criticising the world and its inhabitants. Patriarchy and capitalism are the core subjects in this genre-defying collection.
The book opens with The Head, a bizarre story about a creature that appears in a toilet bowl. It was apparently created out of the excreta of the woman who uses the toilet. Throughout her life she is tormented psychologically by the creature. Next, Chang takes us to The Embodiment – a horrifying tale of a woman getting pregnant after taking birth control pills for an extended period. What follows is an unbelievable series of brutal events, where the woman is forced to find a father for her unborn baby. Nobody is sympathetic to her, not even doctors or nurses, because after all, she brought it up on herself. “If you want a normal child, you’ll do whatever it takes to find a father,” says the doctor.
The stories that follow — The Frozen Finger, Reunion, Home Sweet Home — all belong to differen genres. Goodbye, My Love, the sixth story is closer to science fiction. It is about a woman who designs android robots. She cannot decide what to do with her first creation — keep it with her or get rid of it. But then, how? Does it care about her as much as she does? The realisation comes too late. The eponymous story Cursed Bunny is a bizarre take on the downside of capitalism.
It is a cursed fetish, in the form of a bunny, that brings down capitalism in this story. The grandfather reveals how he did it, how the magic works and its effects on the perpetrator as well. Snare is a retelling of a fairy tale, which is nothing like the original.
It is in fact a bloodier version where a man finding a golden goose. The Ruler of the Winds and Sands is like a tale from the One Thousand and One Nights — the story of a princess and her prince. At its core Cursed Bunny is a horror-filled reality that plays out in a world that is almost unreal.