Disasters, accidents, and deaths abound in Bluebeard’s First Wife. A woman spends a night with her fiancé and his friends, and overhears a terrible secret that has bound them together since high school. A man grows increasingly agitated by the apartment noise made by a young family living upstairs and arouses the suspicion of his own wife when the neighbors meet a string of unlucky incidents. A couple moves into a picture-perfect country house, but when their new dog is stolen, they become obsessed with finding the thief, and in the process, neglect their child. Ha’s paranoia-inducing, heart-quickening stories will have you reconsidering your own neighbors.
"These mesmerizing stories of disconnection and detritus unfurl with the surreal illogic of dreams—it’s as impossible to resist their pull as it is to understand, in retrospect, how circumstance succeeded circumstance to finally deliver the reader into a moment as indelible as it is unexpected. Janet Hong’s translation glitters like a blade.” —Susan Choi
"Ha Seong-Nan’s stories unfold like folk tales. Their clear, tightly focused problems and the counterintuitive way characters go about solving them leave room for hubris to be punished, for ironies to click into place in their final moments. But, like the book’s title, the premises in the Korean writer’s second collection published in English are often red herrings, as Ha eschews even the kind of 'happy' ending that the original Bluebeard story provided for far grimmer conclusions. As with her previous collection, last year’s Flowers Of Mold, in Bluebeard’s First Wife, Ha favors ruin and decay over tidiness, defying narrative expectations and crafting nightmarish visions that spark with dark energy." — The AV Club
Bluebeard's First Wife by Ha Seong-nan
Translated from the Korean by Janet Hong
Open Letter Books 2020