December 3, 2022



4 min read

BOOK REVIEW EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ELLA KELLEHER WRITES – Magnificence is a weapon. In South Korea, broadly referred to as the cosmetic surgery capital of the world, one finds themselves needing to be armed to the enamel always. “Korea is a spot the place you possibly can’t depart the home with out make-up for those who’re not lovely,” which is a very pervasive customary for girls. Think about somebody who just isn’t lovely, even thought of “ugly” – the “ugliest girl” that anybody had ever seen. Such is the place of the narrator’s fundamental love curiosity, a woman who is rarely given a reputation. Out of the blue, a boy with movie-star attractiveness approaches a woman who has by no means earlier than been romantically acknowledged. Her ideas spiral ceaselessly: What if he isn’t being real? Much more terrifyingly, what if he’s? In such a savage world, how might the woman ever enable her emotional defenses to falter?

Our narrator is a boy emotionally at sea. Set in Nineteen Eighties South Korea, the unnamed boy’s conventionally good-looking father dumps his average-looking mom for the chance-of-a-lifetime film position in Seoul and, predictably, a prettier girl costar. Disgusted along with his father, the narrator distances himself from his household and takes a job at a division retailer whereas he plans to review for school entrance exams. There, he turns into buddies with a fellow coworker, an eccentric John Lennon sort named Yohan. Working alongside them is the “ugliest woman [he’d] ever seen” and the primary and solely woman he falls in love with.

Park Min-Gyu, writer of Pavane for a Useless Princess – 262 pages – $15.95 – Dalkey Archive Press

Revered South Korean writer Park Min-Gyu, identified principally for this e book, builds the romantic rigidity slowly and poetically. Outwardly, the woman is very cautious of the advances of this good-looking stranger however simmering within the background is an ever-growing affection and infatuation. Males normally solely discuss to her on a dare, however with Yohan’s reassurance, the weird trio change into inseparable. Each is a “freak” by South Korean requirements: A university dropout, a hideous woman, and a handsome boy who dares to be seen together with her.


This isn’t an “ugly duckling” story. Neither is it a gender-swapped retelling of “Magnificence and the Beast.” Pavane for a Useless Princess (2014) strikes at a slower tempo than most romance novels, it takes the time to breathe and let the reader really feel the uncertainty and depth of real love. The woman’s ugliness complicates the story. The narrator doesn’t attempt to deny the very fact. He doesn’t declare she had some “inside magnificence” that blinds him to her outward look. On this respect, Park’s novel is extremely helpful. The story depicts an admirably lifelike and trustworthy depiction of romance and the way completely complicated and unquantifiable it’s.

Impeccably translated by Amber Hyun Jung Kim, on this re-creation there are moments in Park’s prose that shine a shocking mild on the complexity of the human situation. The woman admits that not solely is she unattractive on the surface, however she additionally holds a vicious darkness inside her: “Some individuals would possibly level to handicapped individuals and inform me issues could be a lot worse.  I’m conscious there are numerous people who find themselves in ache… [there] have been many occasions once I envied these individuals. At the least the world acknowledges their handicaps for handicaps.  The world by no means accepted my darkness as a handicap, but everybody handled me as such… [I] had no selection however to reside this life. That was my destiny.”

What if the ache and the cruelty of a superficial society deepens one thing in a single’s soul? The narrator was left a traumatized man after the betrayal of his father, and the woman was fated from start to reside by way of hardship. The reader is left questioning why the narrator loves the woman, and the reply arrives in query type, drifting slowly however clearly on the tides of an unlikely relationship: What if there’s an invisible tie between two individuals, a ‘pink string’ that binds two souls collectively? What if one can love with out utilizing eyes or logic – what if one soul merely chooses one other?


Pavane for a Useless Princess is a masterclass in poetic writing and an completely emotionally devastating learn mandatory for audiences serious about a profound cultural critique of South Korean (and by extent, East Asian) magnificence requirements. It is a story constructed for social protest. It urges the reader to see past the shallow “judgments laid by society” cemented 1000’s of years in the past. Largely ignored by international audiences when it debuted in 2014, Park’s novel deserves a re-read, re-review, and a extra nuanced evaluation. Park Min-Gyu’s prose guts society, and within the course of, leaves indelible emotional marks on the reader as effectively.


LMU English main graduate Ella Kelleher is the e book overview editor-in-chief and a contributing workers author for Asia Media Worldwide. She majored in English with a focus in multi-ethnic literature.

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