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Our Twisted Hero [Hardcover]

Yi Munyol , Mun-Yol Yi
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 17.69
Price: 16.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion Books; First Printing of Hyperian Edition edition (Feb 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786866705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786866700
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 14.6 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,000,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
IT'S BEEN NEARLY THIRTY YEARS ALREADY, but whenever I look back on that lonely, difficult fight, which continued from the spring of that year through the fall, I become as desolate and gloomy as I was at the time. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Classroom Allegory 26 July 2001
By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This tiny novella from a well-known South Korean writer serves as a simple allegory about totalitarianism, and how the intelligentsia who oppose it are first broken and then co-opted by it. Originally published in Korea in 1987, seven years after the massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Kwangju-an episode not nearly as well known in the West as Tinnanmen Square-it was made into a film in 1992. The story is narrated by a middle-aged man, recounting his experience as a 12-year-old boy forced to leave his prestigious elementary school in Seoul and move with his family to a provincial town. He expects to be a big fish in the small pond at his new school, but the local kids could care less about his academic achievements in the big city. They are all under the sway of the class monitor and bully, who has also made himself indispensable to the class teacher.
The newcomer is aghast at the schoolyard cult of personality created by the monitor and refuses to go along with it, resulting in his ostracization. The class monitor doesn't merely intimidate the others with physical force, rather he relies on more subtle approaches, getting subordinates to take action for him, and cultivating a climate of fear. Of course, when the narrator attempts to report the misdeeds of the monitor to the teacher, there is no hard proof, and none of the other children will support his claims. Eventually the narrator finds the psychological isolation too difficult and decides to go along with status quo. This proves to be a very easy and rewarding path as he is made a crony of the monitor, and he finds life under the monitor's rule to be less distasteful than he had expected...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Thirty years ago Han Pyongt'ae was twelve-years old when he arrived at a dilapidated rural school. With no friends or brothers & an aging, ineffectual teacher who prefers the status quo of the class monitor's insidious & implacable totalitarianism, this lone boy, with all the city-dweller's condemnation of country people, determines to fight against the charismatic bully.
This is a riveting allegory, in the tradition of Lord of the Flies, which starts as a simple power play within a children's classroom & turns into a chilling tale of lust for power & the desperate need for acceptance deep within us all.
A curious & fascinating read - utterly colorless & utterly masculine in its exposure of the battles for dominance between boys, school hierarchies & the confusion of justice, blame & power. Do check out our Boy's Week in which a fistful of Men & Gender books are reviewed.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Classroom Allegory 26 July 2001
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This tiny novella from a well-known South Korean writer serves as a simple allegory about totalitarianism, and how the intelligentsia who oppose it are first broken and then co-opted by it. Originally published in Korea in 1987, seven years after the massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Kwangju-an episode not nearly as well known in the West as Tinnanmen Square-it was made into a film in 1992. The story is narrated by a middle-aged man, recounting his experience as a 12-year-old boy forced to leave his prestigious elementary school in Seoul and move with his family to a provincial town. He expects to be a big fish in the small pond at his new school, but the local kids could care less about his academic achievements in the big city. They are all under the sway of the class monitor and bully, who has also made himself indispensable to the class teacher.
The newcomer is aghast at the schoolyard cult of personality created by the monitor and refuses to go along with it, resulting in his ostracization. The class monitor doesn't merely intimidate the others with physical force, rather he relies on more subtle approaches, getting subordinates to take action for him, and cultivating a climate of fear. Of course, when the narrator attempts to report the misdeeds of the monitor to the teacher, there is no hard proof, and none of the other children will support his claims. Eventually the narrator finds the psychological isolation too difficult and decides to go along with status quo. This proves to be a very easy and rewarding path as he is made a crony of the monitor, and he finds life under the monitor's rule to be less distasteful than he had expected. Of course, at the end, a new teacher upsets the applecart and like the arrival of the adults in Lord of the Flies, restores order to the world of the children while chastising them for letting themselves fall into such an arrangement. Here, the narrator is alone in refusing to denounce the monitor, as the class is transformed back into the messy democracy the narrator was used to in Seoul.
For a book that only takes an hour to read, it presents a fairly powerful package. The structure of the Korean school system will be of interest to Western readers as Mungol makes the most of the device of using children to illustrate the flaws of the adult world. The story, in its shortness and simplicity, could serve as a valuable aid for educators seeking to teach children about dissent. The one flaw is the rather too pat ending, where we see the class monitor as an adult being dragged away by police for criminal activity. In real life, the dictators either manage to hold on to power or come to decidedly messier ends.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mun-yol Yi's little masterpiece 23 Feb 2002
By Ken Miller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
_Our Twisted Hero_ is a novella, about 120 pages, by South Korean writer Mun-yol Yi.
The plot: our 12 year old narrator, Han Pyongtae, arrives at his new school in rural Korea. Fresh from big city schools in Seoul, he expects to earn the highest marks and the respect of his peers. Instead, he encounters a classroom bully in the form of Om Sokdae, the tallest of his classmates. Om Sokdae extorts food, candy, and prized possessions from the other children. He has managed this for years, and no longer has to resort to violence to gain what he wants. Om Sokdae holds his classmates in terror. Worse, the teacher will not intervene. His orderly class is to his liking.
_Our Twisted Hero_ is the story of how Han Pyongtae copes with this situation. In such a short book the author has provided a powerful story with a powerful message.
American readers will be fascinated by this glimpse inside Korean society and the Korean school system. But this is not just a Korean story-- Han Pyongtae's story seems universal. His struggle is not only with the bully, but with the perceptions of the other children, feelings of injustice, and the confidence of his parents. Hopefully, teenagers and adults all over the world will find _Our Twisted Hero_ and benefit by it as I have. A marvelous little story.
ken32
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best find of 2000 5 July 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This story could well take place in a prison or a boardroom. It's written with simple grace, avoiding all the fancy tricks. With a story so powerful, it doesn't need any. I look forward to more translated works from Mr. Munyol.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Korean Lord of the Flies (sort of) 20 Feb 2007
By Sorrel Wood - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Our Twisted Hero concerns the travails of a grade-school boy whose father's career has taken the family out of the city and into a rural area. The boy's new schoolmates seem alien to him and to make matters worse, they are ruled by a sociopathic classmate. Although the protagonist complains to his parents, none of the local adults see any problem and his parents side with them. How the boy will survive the bully's dictatorship and whether there will be any rescue are the main questions of the story.

Our Twisted Hero is in part a parable of recent Korean history just as Lord of the Flies includes commententary upon twentieth century European politics and warfare. So before you read this wonderful novel, it helps to brush up a bit on your South Korean history, specifically the dictatorships of the nineteen sixties and eighties. (Wikipedia is a good start, talking with an older South Korean is even better.)

Without understanding this background, Western readers could be put off by the narrator's reactions to his family's move to the country and his new country school, which he sees as provincial and backward. Americans, raised on a steady diet of Winslow Homer and Little House on the Prarie, see their pre-industrial past in idyllic terms and often dismiss those who prefer the urbane as "elitist." The history of Koreans' relationship to rural life is very different from ours and they are not as inclined to idealize it.

Of course, what separates average novels from really good ones is the application of the specific to the universal. Yi does this beautifully and this book is one any intelligent reader can enjoy and relate to. Well written and well translated, Our Twisted Hero will bring you back to your own childhood struggles with authority, legitimate and otherwise. It's worth every won.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On human nature and society 16 Feb 2001
By Elec enthusiast - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
One of Yi munyol's bestsellers in Korea, "Our Twisted Hero" tells a story of Um Seokdae, who plays the boss among his classmates. Even the teachers relegate all power to him on all the student matters(for convenience-remember Hobbes?). One day as a new young teacher arrives who takes care of affairs himself, Seokdae is slowly pushed away from the "unofficial" seat of power, becoming betrayed even by his most trusted "sheep". Once kicked out of power, he seems utterly forgotten(just leaving a strong impression on his friends). Tens of years later, he is on his way to his final show of dominance, hoping it will prove himself the ultimate winner. Schumpeter pointed out that there is inevitably a structure of power and obedience in human society, and Yi successfully and vividly delineates in his novel the ups and downs of that power structure. Yi, Korea's most successful novelist, wrote a series of novels touching on universal weaknesses and dilemmas that humans possess. The problem of salvation(social or religious, a serious subject in third world countries like Korea of 1970's and 1980's) in "Son of a Man", liberation of the fair sex in "The Choice", are just a few. Although he is usually conservative and so is constantly under attack by progressive thinkers of Korea, his depth of knowledge, thought and literary style make all his works worth a read.
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