Grove Press: Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley

Diary of a Murderer

"The way you feel about writing poems that no one reads and committing murders that no one knows about is not that different," declares the protagonist of Diary of a Murderer's title story. His musings set the tone for this slim collection by celebrated Korean novelist Kim Young-ha (I Hear Your Voice; Your Republic Is Calling You). The first book of Kim's short fiction to be translated into English, Diary of a Murderer includes four stories, each a darkly funny meditation on grandiosity, deception and the perilous intersections between creativity and violence.

In the title story, an aging serial killer's peaceful life is upended after he is diagnosed with dementia, which erodes his psychological defense mechanisms as ruthlessly as it devours his memory. In "The Origin of Life," a young man fails to intervene in the abusive marriage of his childhood friend and nascent lover; and in "The Writer," a novelist seeks revenge on his ex-wife, whom he suspects is sleeping with her employer. The most poignant entry, "Missing Child," tells the story of a man who is reunited with his kidnapped son after an 11-year absence, forcing both to accept that what is lost can't always be recovered.

Kim's fiction is often nihilistic, but the naked vulnerability of his characters--even the most despicable ones--grounds and elevates it. Though these stories contain aspects of the horrific, the lurking specter they share is not the threat of annihilation, but the threat of self-knowledge. Confronted with the disparity between our ideal selves and the reality of what we must do to survive, none of us can expect to emerge unscathed. --Devon Ashby, sales & marketing assistant, Shelf Awareness for Readers