The Reverse Side of Life by Lee Seung-U

The Reverse Side of Life

Lee Seung-U

A reluctant biographer becomes engrossed in the life of South Korean novelist Bak Bugil and I guarantee you will too. This is not an easy read as it includes not only the thoughts of the unnamed writer but also his interviews with Bak and excerpts from Bak's novels and autobiographical writings (one of which is named 'The Reverse Side of Life!). The effort to keep up with Lee is well worthwhile though: as long as you remember that his novelist's motto is 'expose in order to conceal' so that when he writes of himself as Oedipus or compares himself to a Dostoyevskyan hero can the reader believe it?


As he stood there holding the phone, listening to his mother's request, he had already made up his mind. When he had run away after setting fire to his father's grave, he had resolved never to return to his home town, no matter what. His home town was forbidden territory. He banned himself, vowed he must never return there. As his uncle had done during his childhood, he pronounced the ban on himself. His uncle had told him, Don't go round the back yard. He told himself, Don't go back to your home town .... His home town was the back yard of his youth where the persimmon tree stood.

  • The Outsider by Albert Camus
  • In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar

Books with similar mood


Will Eaves

Traveller of the Century

Andres Neuman

I am the Brother of XX

Fleur Jaeggy

Fever Dream

Samanta Schweblin

The Blue Manuscript

Sabiha Al Khemir

Black Juice

Margo Lanagan

The Carpenter's Pencil

Manuel Rivas


Sofi Oksanen

The Last Children of Tokyo

Yoko Tawada

As Though She Were Sleeping

Elias Khoury

The Clay Dreaming

Ed Hillyer

The Seducer

Jan Kjaerstad


Andrey Platonov

The Birth of Venus

Sarah Dunant


Ian Duhig


Alan Trotter

House of Leaves

Mark Z Danielewski

My Name is Red

Orhan Pamuk

Wanderers and Islanders

Steve Cockayne

Santa Evita

Tomas Elroy Martinez

The Man Who Saw Everything

Deborah Levy


Hasan Ali Toptas


Lauren Groff

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Stuart Turton

The Story of Blanche and Marie

Per Olov Enquist


Jean Echenoz

The Story of You

Julie Myerson

Queen of the South

Arturo Perez-Reverte

The Known World

Edward Jones

The Nautical Chart

Arturo Perez-Reverte

Beneath Black Stars

Martin Chalmers


Suhayl Saadi


David Foster Wallace

Children of the Cave

Virve Sammalkorpi


Paul Kingsnorth

Stabat Mater

Tizanio Scarpa

This Breathing World

Jose Luis de Juan

The Moon Opera

Bi Feiyu

The Alchemy of Desire

Tarun Tejpal

State of Siege

Juan Goytisolo

A Whistling Woman

A S Byatt

The Wasting Game

Philip Gross

As She Climbed Across the Table

Jonathan Lethem

The Garden of Secrets

Juan Goytisolo

Sunset Oasis

Bahaa Taher

Tail of the Blue Bird

Nii Ayikwei Parkes

Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr

John Crowley


Akwaeke Emezi