The Catcher in the Loft

By Un-yŏng Ch’ŏn
Translated by Bruce Fulton & Ju-Chan Fulton

Subjects: Fiction, Korean Studies
Imprint: Distribution Partners
Paperback : 9781949933055, 200 pages, October 2019

A novel of political intrigue and coming of age, centered in a torture operative who is a fugitive and his unsuspecting daughter who must shelter him.


Inspired by the case of a torture specialist in 1980s South Korea who from 1988 to 2000 was a fugitive in his own house, The Catcher in the Loft (published in South Korea in 2011 as Saenggang) is in equal parts a portrait of a man coming to terms with his notorious past and a coming-of-age story centered in his dependent relationship with his college-age daughter, who has always thought of him as a patriotic policeman. The novel begins at breakneck speed, with a victim perishing under the torture artist's (renamed An) watch, and a hurried decision that An must take cover. The remainder of the novel is a dual narrative related in turn by the torture artist and his daughter, Sŏn, who must harbor her father in a loft above her room. There follows a counterpoint of concealment (An) and revelation (Sŏn), with the daughter discovering the "festival" of her own body during an infatuation with a university classmate, followed by the sobering knowledge, manifested firsthand in her encounter with one of her father's shattered victims, that the father she had idolized is a sado-masochist reduced to abject dependence on her for all of his daily needs during his concealment in the loft. When the novel ends, years later, the focus is equally on An's ultimate capitulation (he turns himself in to the authorities) and Sŏn's awakening to her autonomy.

Ch'ŏn Un-yŏng is a South Korean writer. The Catcher in the Loft is her first book of fiction to appear in English translation. Bruce Fulton is the inaugural holder of the Young-Bin Min Chair in Korean Literature and Literary Translation, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia. Together Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton are the translators of numerous volumes of modern Korean fiction. Their most recent translations are the graphic novel Moss by Yoon Taeho, serialized at The Huffington Post (2015–16), The Future of Silence: Fiction by Korean Women (Zephyr Press, 2016), The Human Jungle by Cho Chŏngnae (Chin Music Press, 2016), Sunset: A Ch'ae Manshik Reader (Columbia University Press, 2017), and Mina by Kim Sagwa (Two Lines Press, 2018).


"For much of South Korea's twentieth century, torture was an essential technology of governance that sustained authoritarian regimes. Rewriting that history as a daughter's tale, Ch'ŏn's searing novel forces a confrontation with the fundamental nature of political violence and gendered power. The novel's haunting reflections on atonement and forgiveness, timely today given the political climates around the world, will prove timeless in time. " — Youngju Ryu, University of Michigan