An account of seemingly trivial events—a wedding between two respected families, the arrival of box upon box of new Western products at the general store, a long-awaited athletics meet at a local school—Scenes from the Enlightenment: A Novel of Manners is the story of a country on the cusp of modernity.
First published in 1939, Kim Namcheon’s classic text, through the close, quiet study of a single nineteenth-century village, tracks Korea’s early development from a society bound by the rules of family, rank, and gender toward a ‘new-style,’ enlightened, Westernised nation, complete with bicycles and newly built roads.
On the surface an elegantly turned and acutely observed social comedy, Scenes delves into the conflict between tradition and progress, and reveals how it affected the lives of those who lived through this time of change.
Kim Namcheon was born in 1911 in South Pyongan Province, located in what is today North Korea. He was active in the proletarian literary movement, the Korean Artists Proletarian Federation (KAPF). His early works pursued socialist realism. It is reported he was executed in 1953 as part of a cultural purge.