Anna Kim

The Great Homecoming - Novel

(German title: Die große Heimkehr)
ca. 400 pages
Anna Kim
Foto: Anna Kim
© Werner Geiger

Anna Kim was born in 1977 in Daejeon, South Korea. In 1979 her family moved to Germany and then to Vienna, Austria, where she has lived since 1984.

Anna Kim is recipient of numerous awards, including the 2009 Austrian State fellowship for Literature, the 2009 Elias Canetti fellowship, the Robert Musil fellowship 2010, and the Austrian Prize for Literature 2009.

Other works by her are the novella Die Bilderspur (2004), the novel Die gefrorene Zeit (2008; English edition with Ariadne 2010: Frozen Time) and the essay Invasionen des Privaten (2011). The Anatomy of a Night is her first book with Suhrkamp.

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English world rights (Portobello Books), Netherlands (Signatuur)

»My friends were homeless, just like I was, children, teenagers, refugees from the north, refugees from the south, people without age and without names, who, while searching for their families, had become arbitrary, translucent.«


Seoul, April 1960. Johnny Kim, his lover Eve Moon and his best friend since childhood, Yunho Kang, are fleeing from the infamous Northwest Youth, an anti-communist, paramilitary goon squad serving the South Korean government, itself on the brink of collapse – for weeks, the people have been protesting against the autocratic president Rhee. Together, Johnny, Eve and Yunho risk the illegal passage to Japan and find shelter and work in the Korean quarter of Osaka. But soon their past catches up with them: A girl has disappeared and suspicion falls on Johnny…

Spy novel, historical and political novel all at once, The Great Homecoming is a story about friendship, loyalty and betrayal, of life made impossible by dictatorship. The book addresses the effects of the separation of the Korean peninsula and the beginnings of today’s North Korea, when Kim Il Sung’s regime was still in its infancy.

After her great success Anatomy of a Night, published in six languages, Anna Kim presents another brilliant novel, which discusses the impact of history on the individual.


»We know North Korea now as a totalitarian nightmare, as alien and unimaginable in its origins as The Death Star. The Great Homecoming returns us to a time when citizens of the Korean peninsula were caught between North and South: a time of secrecy and surveillance, broken promises and perfidious love. I am amazed by the scope and depth of Anna Kim’s vision, and I am so thrilled to be publishing her novel on the Portobello list.« Anne Meadows, Portobello Books

»A powerful and thought-provoking meditation on memory, home and identity. There were many lines and paragraphs exploring these themes which were so incisive that I found myself making a note of them. [...] The author writes beautifully and it seems as though her research was extensive and thorough. The novel provides a fascinating insight into the events which have shaped present day North and South Korea. [...] The novel is alive with sensory detail; the monsoon rains, the steam rising off buildings and from the streets, the smell of the food. The author's attention to detail is outstanding and the images she depicts are incredibly evocative« Jamie Lee Searle, report for Portobello Books

»The atmosphere created is one of suspension and the music of Billy Holiday imbibes the novel with both a sense of the 1950s and also with a sense of melancholy for a time that is no more. Interspersed with the narrative is the history of the two Koreas; the war, the split between the North and South and the connections with Russia and America. It’s a moving story as each of the characters profoundly affect the course of the others’ lives and the experiences they have. An interesting novel that simultaneously informs and provokes.« Sophia Rigby, report for Portobello Books

»This is an outstanding title both in terms of how immaculately written it is, how universal its core story feels and how important and ground breaking it is in terms of subject-matter. [...] It is a many layered and absorbing novel. Part spy novel, part war novel, part love story. [...] It is so many things at once, and pulls it off.« Jen Calleja, report for Portobello Books

»Austrian writer Anna Kim has written a sophisticated historical novel about the Cold War in Korea ... « Zeit Literatur March 2017

»In the fabulous novel Die große Heimkehr Anna Kim paints a painful portrait of the two Koreas, which remain scarred today.« Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»Anna Kim manages to tell an exciting story while giving us a vivid introduction to the propagandistically contested history of Korea.« Süddeutsche Zeitung

»With a remarkable sense of drama Kim depicts events and reaches far back into Korean history, but without ignoring the fine details while considering the greater whole … As in a swing, the novel’s subtle rhythmic variations turn beauty into sadness.« Die literarische Welt

»Anna Kim’s novel is full of smells and sounds, melodies and atmospheric images, which are impossible to forget ... When a story of such unfathomable atrocities resonates so poignantly, it is a sign of magnificent literature. « Frankfurter Rundschau

»Using language like a dissecting knife, delicately and confidently, the author reveals layers of depth of the human existence itself.« Deutschlandradio Kultur

»The novel Die große Heimkehr is both an exciting chronicle and deceptively realistic fiction.« Der Standard.at

»To learn something about the two Koreas, to wrestle some clear ideas from out of the ambiguities, it is worth turning to literature– and to this novel in particular.« Die Presse

»A fascinating panorama of contemporary Korean history.« Tiroler Tageszeitung Online

»Anna Kim’s latest novel Die große Heimkehr is epic in scope, strongly researched and treats the destiny of three people … in stunningly visual language. Kim proves herself an excellent storyteller.«
Buchkultur February/ March 2017

Other publications

Anatomie einer Nacht/The Anatomy of a Night (2012)

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English world rights digital (Frisch & Co.), France (Jacqueline Chambon), Denmark (Tiderne Skifter), Korea (Eulyoo), Poland (Jagiellonian UP), Bulgaria (Paradox), Turkey (Alti Kirk Bes)