What struck me most in Demons was the atmosphere. It was eerie, spooky and uncanny. And there is this mother and daughter in this atmosphere, so vulnerable and alone. It makes you want to reach into the story and get them out of there.
The mother has moved to live with her mother-in-law since her husband is out of the country for work. She works as a teacher in the village school, and she overlooks seven children. The village and the people living there, even the children are spooky. There is something sinister going on, but she doesn’t know why. And also she hears voices. Mixed with scary Korean myths, Demos will finish in no time.
Set in a small rural village, seemingly everyday events take on a macabre meaning. We follow Kim Miyoung, a relatively new villager and the local primary school teacher, as she is slowly overcome by anxiety, with her daughter at the vulnerable young age of three, a difficult group of schoolboys under her wing and her mother-in-law trying to drag her into house-of-cards village politics. To top it all, she finds herself plagued by the idea of son: folklore spirits out to make people’s lives miserable. As the village gathers for the annual ‘meju-making day’, amid all the hubbub, Miyoung loses sight of her daughter Mina. Despite her cries for help, everyone seems to be against her.
Kang Hwagil is a young Korean writer best know for her 2017 novel Dareun Saram (‘Others’). Which won her the Hankyoreh Literature Award as well as a Young Authors’ Prize. She was herald by the Hankyoreh panel as a ‘new voice’. And received much praise for her fearlessly honest portrayal of Korean society, carrying a confrontational message. A champion of feminist writing in her own right, Kang is often mention in one breath with Cho Namjoo. Whose Kim Jiyoung, born 1982 brought gender equality and #MeToo. The forefront of South-Korea’s national debate, following its publication in 2016. Kang’s hit novel, like Cho’s, seems to have struck a chord also by way of its unembellished style. She excels in sparse, almost understated prose, leaving the reader to appreciate, in its purest form, the gravity of what is being say.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: