Spotlight on “The Melancholy of Untold History” by Minsoo Kang

by LitStack Editor

The Melancholy of Untold History, Minsoo Kang’s debut novel, is a beautifully crafted, enriching saga inspired by East Asian mythology.

the melancholy of untold history by author Minsoo Kang

About The Melancholy of Untold History

Minsoo Kang’s The Melancholy of Untold History is steeped in history like R.F. Kuang’s Babel, epic in scope like Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, and lyrically exciting like David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, interweaving four complex yet entertaining stories as they shape and create a nation’s literary narrative through the themes of love and grief.

A history professor mourning his wife. His young protégé’s search for a path forward. Four witty mountain gods with much to say and not enough time to listen. A gifted storyteller bringing a world into being out of thin air…

Famous for his dispelling of the national myth, the Historian understands the power of narrative. He has inspired another young professor to search for her own truths, while trying to understand the way fiction creates fact and how sometimes the past can only be understood by filling in holes with a new narrative. Which is exactly what he needs when his wife passes away to parse meaning out of a world that no longer makes sense.

Together the protégé and the Historian find comfort in each other. Yet they know their time together is fleeting, as time usually is. Only the gods have an abundance of time, and yet—the two discover—even that might not be so clear cut. Part of their homeland’s myth tells of four gods who squabbled and argued and destroyed and rebuilt time and again.

Or did they?

Because, of course, even the gods need mouthpieces on earth. And the one the Historian knows of—the elusive Storyteller—may have just been spinning tales for his own amusement and, ultimately, revenge. By fabricating the exploits of the gods, he could have set a course for certain events to unfold and a particular story to survive today.

Spanning 3,000 years and multiple voices—with tales within tales woven expertly together—The Melancholy of Untold History reveals a people and its individuals who seek to confront the hardships of life through storytelling. Mixing the East Asian mythos with a postmodern approach to standard sci-fi/fantasy narrative tropes, Minsoo Kang has created a challenging, beautiful, sad, humorous, and ultimately unforgettable novel of love, grief, and myth-making.

Source: Publisher
ISBN-13: 9780063337503
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 07/16/2024

Praise for The Melancholy of Untold History

“A potent and epic blend of the mythic and the personal, The Melancholy of Untold History has the scope and yet intimacy of all great storytelling. A favorite read of the year.”—Jeff VanderMeer, the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation

“The Melancholy of Untold History is a delight. Kang’s scholarly background has born extraordinary fruit: a debut novel only he could write about the ways we know ourselves and others, which is to say, story. And with, it should be said, an ‘extraordinary fruit’ plot as well.”—Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

“Minsoo Kang’s first novel, The Melancholy of Untold History, is an enchanting and ingenious tale about storytellers and the nature of stories, awhirl with gods and myths and the lives of everyday people. Its clear prose and feast of narrative invention make it hard to put down. Highly recommended.”—Jeffrey Ford, author of Ahab’s Return and Big Dark Hole and Other Stories

“Minsoo Kang’s lucid prose and steadfast dedication to climbing the peaks of truth will easily enchant the readers of The Melancholy of Untold History, lulling them into a waking dream of stolen peaches, academic infighting, treacherous cavalry, and dragon farts. Surprise, joy, resignation, fear, laughter, kisses, cats—all play their part in a tale as natural and complex as the course of a river, and as satisfyingly whole as requited love.

“Given Kang’s Korean literary heritage, his training as a historian, and his globetrotting early life as a diplomat’s son, the inclusion of the bright star of Kang’s fiction in the constellation of important genre works delivers a powerful, timely message: our imagination’s many diverse viewpoints will inevitably be heard.”—Nisi Shawl, author of Everfair

“In these strange, difficult times when fiction writers (and readers!) must be wondering how invented stories can possibly compete with the twists and turns of contemporary reality, Minsoo Kang has written a novel that amply rises to the challenge. The Melancholy of Untold History is a fabulist narrative told by a modern-day historian, a two-thousand-year-old storyteller awaiting execution by a merciless emperor, and a panoply of potty-mouthed deities. …this novel is like nothing you’ve ever read before….an exhilarating carnival ride, myth and love story, intellectual asides (the author is a historian) and the most colorful fart jokes ever written in English.”—Yoojin Grace Wuertz, author of Everything Belongs to Us

“The Melancholy of Untold History mixes genres, traverses space and time, and ultimately limns the human soul as it asks us to consider what is a story, and does story make us human? An epic feat of storytelling in itself, this book is a triumph.”—Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of The Evening Hero

“The Melancholy of Untold History reveals the mortal stakes of the stories we tell about who we are as a people: how our notions of history profoundly shape who we become. It performs this high-wire act by interspersing narratives of “the storyteller” and “the historian,” alternately luring us in with myths and challenging us with truths. Lofty in its ambition yet grounded in its clear-sightedness, Kang’s debut novel is deft, sly, and compulsively readable.”—Phong Nguyen, author of Bronze Drum

“Bold, witty, and provocative, The Melancholy of Untold History is a prismatic imaginative feat, taking us on a journey through three thousand years of love and deceit, victory and revenge. I laughed out loud when I wasn’t crying, carried by Minsoo Kang’s sharp and inventive prose that asks: What’s the cost of silence?”—Jimin Han, author of The Apology

Source: Publisher
ISBN-13: 9780063337503
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 07/16/2024

About Minsoo Kang, Author of The Melancholy of Untold History

Minsoo Kang is a fiction writer and a historian specializing in the intellectual history of modern Europe. Due to his father’s occupation as a diplomat for South Korea, Kang has lived in Korea, Austria, New Zealand, Iran, Brunei, Germany, the United States, and other places for shorter periods. He served in the army of the Republic of Korea and earned his Ph.D. in European History at UCLA. Currently, he is a professor at the history department of the University of Missouri at St. Louis, and the author of a number of history books and short speculative fiction.

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