LITERATURE – “A powerful story about resilience and compassion”. These words are from Barack Obama Regarding a novel titled Pachinkopublished abroad in 2017, and in France in 2021. Min Jin Lee’s novel, which the former US president read on the advice of one of his employees, has been adapted into a television series.
The first episodes are broadcast this Friday, March 25 on Apple TV and, in particular, feature one of the starring roles of the South Korean movie star. Youn Yuh-jungOscar winner for her performance in To threat.
From Kyunghee’s arranged marriage in 1910 to Solomon’s American graduation, Sunja’s hidden pregnancy, and Mozasu’s brother’s disappearance, the series follows the book’s dense, complex, and moving narrative. It is that of a family of Korean descent spanning four generations over the past century. First in Korea under Japanese occupation, then in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Watch the trailer for “Pachinko”:
The title of the book comes from the name given to a very popular gaming machine in Japan, described as a device halfway between a pinball machine and a slot machine. In this country, where the Korean population is discriminated against and excluded from the labor market, pachinko parlors have long been the only way to work in the territory and earn a good income.
“This story has been with me for 30 years”
“The idea came to me in 1989,” says Min Jin Lee in the acknowledgments. Born in Seoul in 1968, the Korean-American author studied at Yale. There, he never left her the speech of an American missionary resident in Japan on “social and institutional discrimination against those whose ethnic origin is wholly or partially Korean.” In particular, the case of the suicide of a student harassed at school because of his origin.
This was what prompted her, after leaving her career as a lawyer in 1996, to write about Koreans in Japan. “She wanted to do it right to tell her story,” she continues. However, I felt that I lacked knowledge and skills on the subject. Guided by this fear, I did a lot of research.”
A first draft, a second, a third. Min Jin Lee is never satisfied. In 2008, it was resumed from the beginning. Settled in Tokyo for a few years, she multiplies the interviews there to document her story. “This story has been with me for thirty years,” acknowledges the writer. When she comes out in 2017, her 600-page family saga is an exception. This is the first time that an adult English novel addresses the problems of Japanese-Korean culture.
an acclaimed book
is a success In the press, the New York Times places it in its ranking of the best titles in literary history. “Like most memorable books, Pachinko avoid any summary. The book, of which history itself is a character, speaks of foreigners, minorities and people deprived of their rights”, breathes the daily’s literary columnist.
“Every time the novel deals with a theme, whether it be the colonization of Korea by Japan, World War II as seen by East Asians, Christianity, family, or the emancipation of women, it takes on another dimension. It goes beyond that,” enthuses Kris Lee.
At guardian, we salute how feelings of shame and guilt feed some of the novel’s most brilliant scenes where “each character, due to his status as a ‘second-class citizen’, is prey to painful sacrifices.” “A true tribute to a people that history seems determined to erase,” comments the British newspaper.
Soon on screens?
A great lover of literature, the 44th president of the United States did not miss it. “True to the nature of pachinko, a risky game whose maze of obstacles determines the outcome, Min Jin Lee’s novel takes us through four generations and the search for the identity of its characters,” writes Barack Obama on Facebook.
In an interview given to washington post, the writer Roxane Gay, who read it in one day “because she couldn’t stop”, says it is one of her favorite books. Same story for Oprah Winfrey. For the best known of American television presenters, the novel tells of a different immigration story than the ones we are used to hearing.
The general public is present at the event. The book, which remained at the top of the best-sellers of the New York Times, has sold more than three million copies and has been translated into 30 languages. A sign of its success, also in France, it is now available in pocket format. At the moment, the series, which has been shot in three languages and on several continents, has not yet been renewed for a second season. However, everything indicates that Min Jin Lee’s novel has enough to make a lot of ink run.
See also in The HuffPost: What ‘Squid Game’ on Netflix says about the South Korean company