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Burning HeartLee Du-on

『Burning Heart』

Author : Lee Du-on
Publisher : Eunhaeng Namu
Publication date : July 2, 2020
Number of pages : 420
Format : 140x210mm
ISBN : 9791190492836

Lee Du-on

Born in 1985 in Seoul, she published her first novel Sister in 2016. Burning Heart was the 2017 runner-up in the Kyobo Book Centre’s Story Contest.

A World of Darkness, With Hearts Full of Darkness


The novel begins with the question: What if there was a village that makes its living on serial killings? Like-minded hearts full of darkness, seeing that a murder can be a moneymaker, assemble to give rise to bizarre goings-on in the village. The villagers’ pasts come together and strike the dark abyss of our society. The novel is a metaphor for our society of people pushed to the brink, squeezed out in the struggle for survival. It sends a clear warning against turning something that cannot be reduced to money into a commodity: the human body is objectified, poverty and misfortunes are on display, and people — even in death — degenerate into beings for whom ultimate closure is out of reach. By the time this strange village begins to work its charms, the secrets of those who planned the murders and of those killed are revealed in rapid and unfaltering succession.

A small rural village at the intersection of Route 2 and Route 17. Facing an arid, desolate wasteland, it used to be a stopover for truckers and other drivers. With the construction of the highway, motorists no longer feel the need to stop by, and the village loses its main source of income. In order to generate some money, the villagers try to attract infrastructure investments and to commercialize the concept of “Sunrise at the dry plains” for tourism, but to no avail.

At that instant, the village suddenly faces a turning point. Six bodies are found on the arid plain. The murdered victims are all young people from the village who were thought to have left for the city. It is revealed that their bodies were burned and buried in the wasteland. A serial killer is announced, and the village is sought out by thousands of people. The village grabs all the headlines and gains notoriety. The investigation continues, but the perpetrator is not caught. Soon thereafter, the story of the killer is turned into a movie, and the village becomes a film site. Outsiders come and go in droves. The villagers come to realize that serial killing makes good money. As the movie hits the box office, more and more people visit the village. The annual village festival is rapidly rearranged into a morbid tourist exhibition of the killings.

For those living hand to mouth, even such a disaster for the village as serial killings is considered acceptable prey, and misfortune starts to turn into something auspicious. The rationale for money and livelihood precedes guilt, humanity and ethics. In the midst of all the ugliness of self-interest, the novel brings to light a girl’s good will and fierce determination to overthrow the nightmare and turn it into hope. People are cruel and ruthless, but ironically, pain makes us reflect upon ourselves. Through the girl, we come to realize that precise and important fact: it is also what enables us to empathize with others. The artist may be sending out a message of eager resolve — survive in a world of darkness to become its hope.



“A series of strange murders takes place in a village you’ve never heard of, and a girl you’ve never known stumbles her way through amateur detective work, literally with her life at stake. In the face of ugly self-interest, defeat seems inevitable. But the ardent wish that you, at least, should overcome this and survive, offers a faint glimmer of hope. Burning Heart is supremely grotesque and beautiful and powerful. It’s a story that you never have read before.” — Kim Yong-eon (Editor of Mysteria magazine)

Translated by