23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Bae Suah
© Ali Ghandtschi

Bae Suah

Bae Suah was born in Seoul in 1965. She studied chemistry at Ewha Womans University and initially worked as a civil servant. In an interview with »The Guardian«, the author describes how she wrote her first story by chance while practicing touch typing. In 1988, she won a literary competition for young writers with one of her stories. She subsequently gave up her career as a civil servant in favour of writing. For her work, which includes several volumes of stories and novels, Bae Suah is considered one of the most renowned contemporary authors in her home country. Her style, initially characterized by a distinct cynicism, became increasingly experimental over time. In the Korean literary scene, she is known for her literary performances, in which she recites texts, which are often accompanied by music, videos, or film clips. Since her stay in Berlin in 2001, she has also worked as a translator, translating works by W. G. Sebald, Franz Kafka, and Jenny Erpenbeck, among others, into Korean.

»A Greater Music« (2016) was the first novel by Bae Suah to appear in English translation. Set in Berlin and interwoven with reflections on music and art, identity and language, it centres on a young Korean writer whose relationships with Joachim, a metalworker, and her German teacher M contrast starkly. »Weiße Nacht« (2021; Eng. »Untold Night and Day«, 2020) is Bae Suah‘s first novel to appear in German translation. After the end of her last shift at an audio theatre, which is set to close forever the next day, 28-year-old Ayami sets out to find a lost friend. In the sweltering Seoul summer, an unconventional detective story unfolds with echoes of Korean shamanism, according to which all things are animate. The repetition of individual phrases and motifs, which create a disorientating déjà vu effect, are a common thread throughout the novel. »The Guardian« sys that reading the novel »feels like a tumble into a surrealist painting. Just as you think you’ve found your footing, time melts away and the line between reality and dreams becomes fluid.«

Bae Suah was awarded the Hankook Ilbo Literature Prize in 2003 and the Tongsŏ Literature Prize in 2004. In 2018, she was writer-in-residence in Zurich, and now lives in Seoul and Berlin.


A Greater Music

Open Letter

Rochester, 2016

[Ü: Deborah Smith]


Weiße Nacht


Berlin, 2021

[Ü: Sebastian Bring]