The Serpent’s Tail Book Club – SEPTEMBER 2022

30 August 2022

 

SEPTEMBER 2022: THE DISASTER TOURIST

This month, we’ve chosen Yun Ko-eun’s The Disaster Tourist for our Serpent’s Tail Book Club pick. Winner of the 2021 Crime Writers’ Association Crime in Translation Dagger, this is a satirical eco-thriller that deftly navigates the #MeToo movement and our climate crisis, and is perfect for fans of Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman and Han Kang’s The Vegetarian. 

 

Find more about the Serpent’s Tail Book Club and FAQs here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

*** WINNER OF THE 2021 CWA CRIME IN TRANSLATION DAGGER ***
**LONGLISTED FOR THE DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD 2022**
*LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 COMEDY WOMEN IN PRINT PRIZE*

Yona has been stuck behind a desk for years working as a programming coordinator for Jungle, a travel company specialising in package holidays to destinations ravaged by disaster. When a senior colleague touches her inappropriately she tries to complain, and in an attempt to bury her allegations, the company make her an attractive proposition: a free ticket for one of their most sought-after trips, to the desert island of Mui.

She accepts the offer and travels to the remote island, where the major attraction is a supposedly-dramatic sinkhole. When the customers who’ve paid a premium for the trip begin to get frustrated, Yona realises that the company has dangerous plans to fabricate an environmental catastrophe to make the trip more interesting, but when she tries to raise the alarm, she discovers she has put her own life in danger.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yun Ko-eun was born in Seoul in 1980. Her short story ‘Piercing’ won the Daesan Literary Award for College Students the year she graduated from university. She received the 2008 Hankyorek Literature Award for her novel The Zero G Syndrome and in 2015 her short story collection Aloha won the Kim Yong Ik Novel Prize.


READING GROUP QUESTIONS

  1. The original Korean title of this novel was Travellers of the Night. How much of the tone in The Disaster Tourist do you think might have changed during translation?
  2. Did the relationship between Covid, travel and tourism impact your reading of this novel?
  3.  An individual’s success is mostly perceived as a result of merit. How do encounters between rich and poor countries, through excursions such as disaster or volunteer tourism challenge this belief?
  4.  Discuss your own experiences with disaster tourism and volunteer tourism.
  5.  In Ecology without Culture, Professor Christine Marran discusses cultures defining themselves through biological elements, and introduces the concept of biotropes: invoking material elements of nature (such as Japan’s cherry blossoms) as symbols of hope or cultural support. Do you see examples of biotropes in The Disaster Tourist, and how are they used to defend Mui’s culture?
  6.  In a conversation with Yona, the resort manager says that ‘if disaster disappears from Mui, life disappears, too’. Discuss the exploitative qualities of disaster tourism, and the dangers they pose to a country’s development when such tourism is the main source of revenue.
  7.  Yona and her fellow tourists seem to believe that ‘it’s too scary to visit disaster destinations close to home’ because the distance allows them to see situations more objectively. How important do you think distance is to objectivity, and objectivity to progress?
  8.  Do you think performing natural disasters in a safe environment encourages or inhibits empathy?
  9.  Recent years have shown a rise in anti-capitalist Korean narratives that highlight growing wealth disparity and poverty. Did you see links between this novel and Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite?
  10.  The tsunami at the end of the novel can be seen as divine intervention; nature’s response to Paul’s hubris around creating disaster on the island of Mui. Would you agree, or do you think this reading is the same human-centric narrative that Yun Ko-eun is satirising?