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Friday, December 23, 2005

'The Red Queen' by Margaret Drabble

I was just speaking of eastern settings for stories with Brontëan resonances (it has certainly been a very exciting 48 hours for Brontëana). This novel has really caught my attention! The review, which can be read here, is also very thoughtful and engaging (except for the odd remark that the book somehow encompasses nearly all literary theories). If the book lives up to these claims, it should certainly be appearing in an intertextual study sometime soon! (please?) Just at a glance I can see a trace of an inverted Bertha/Rochester thread.

From 'Marrying the Madness of Prince Sado', an article by Jennifer Anne Waring:

The story of the 18th century Korean crown princess and her marriage at the age of 10 to the insane Prince Sado is a testimony to Korea's diverse and interesting culture. Based on the princess's original diaries, "The Red Queen" charts Prince Sado's descent into debauchery, murder and finally death. The Korean princess's tale culminates with Prince Sado's slow and torturous end, at the hands of his own father. Shakespeare himself would have struggled to invent a more dramatic and psychological grueling tale.

The crown princess's story is juxtaposed with the modern day story of Dr Barbara Halliwell, a medical professor, who happens to read the princess's diaries on her way to South Korea to speak at a conference. Inspired by the princess, Barbara's narrative continues the themes of insanity, gender and sickness. It moves between memories of her own suicidal ex-husband; her exploration of the princess's former palaces; modern day Seoul and a last minute love affair with a dying man.

[...] This way of examining the text [having the Queen recreated as a ghost who comments upon her own narrative from a modern, objective viewpoint] is both humorous and thought provoking. It also allows the reader to draw certain parallels between Korea and the Western world through the ages. For example, the Korean princess's treatment of women, space and illness calls to mind clear similarities between more recent writers such as the Brontes and even Virginia Woolf. It is truly amazing how modern and forward thinking the princess actually was. It also gives the Western reader a valuable link into Korean society.

The princess' diaries are available in this edition from Amazon.com: The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth Century Korea

ETA: Here is the synopsis of the memoirs from Amazon.com:

Lady Hyegyong's memoirs, which recount the chilling murder of her husband by his father, is one of the best known and most popular classics of Korean literature. From 1795 until 1805 Lady Hyegyong composed this masterpiece, which depicts a court life whose drama and pathos is of Shakespearean proportions. Presented in its social, cultural, and historical contexts, this first complete English translation opens a door into a world teeming with conflicting passions, political intrigue, and the daily preoccupations of a deeply intelligent and articulate woman. JaHyun Kim Haboush's accurate, fluid translation captures the intimate and expressive voice of this consummate storyteller. The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong is a unique exploration of Korean selfhood and of how the genre of autobiography fared in premodern times.

...Can I get dibs on writing a paper about this book? No, I thought not.


ThisbeCiel said...

Wow, that does sound like an intriguing book. My book list grows. Have you read any of Virgina Woolf's works? I think it would be interesting to read some more of her work since she is a Bronte fan. And she did write that essay about the Brontes.

Brontëana said...

This is dangerous. I just finished my exams, my program of study is in dire need of my attention and I have to exert every ounce of will-power I have not to ransack the nearest libraries...