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The Accusation: Dissident Fiction from North Korea

January 16, 2018 6:30 pm

Celeste Auditorium, The New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 42nd Street & 5th Avenue New York, NY 10016

The Accusation by Bandi is believed to be the first piece of dissident fiction ever smuggled out of North Korea. Writers, activists, and musicians mark its paperback publication with readings, performances, and conversation.


Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 6:30pm

Location: Celeste Auditorium, The New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 42nd Street & 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Program is free, but advance registration is recommended. Priority will be given to those who have registered in advance. Please register here.


Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko and finalist for the 2017 National Book Award, and acclaimed translator and author Heinz Insu Fenkl reading from The Accusation.
– Musical performance with composer Theo Popov from his opera in progress inspired by the Bandi story “City of Specters” (libretto by Tony Asaro).
– Conversation with activist Do Hee-yun, who helped smuggle Bandi’s manuscript out of North Korea.

There is possibly no book in the world quite like The Accusation. Written in secret by an apparently disillusioned North Korean professional state writer and smuggled out of the country hidden inside a copy of The Collected Works of Kim Il-Sung, it depicts in stark, intimate detail the terrifying realities of life under the institutionalized misery and paranoia of the regime. Its seven stories witness a spectrum of inhumanity visited upon individuals up and down the social and political ladders: an average working man is denied official permission to make a final visit to his dying mother; a mother among Pyongyang's elite fears punishment over her two-year-old son's fear of a portrait of Kim Il-Sung; hundreds are stranded without adequate food or water when a train station is placed on indefinite lockdown so that the Great Leader can travel past without obstruction.

The Accusation has been published in 21 languages in 20 countries, and the English translation, by Deborah Smith, has been awarded the English PEN Translation Prize. The New York Times called it “searing fiction . . . a fierce indictment of life in the totalitarian North.” The activist Do Hee-yun, who arranged for the manuscript to get out of North Korea, will be making a rare American appearance to discuss his part in bringing the book to light.


Hosted by The New York Public Library with Words Without Borders, the Barbara J. Zitwer Agency, Guernica, and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.

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