Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Accusation

by Bandi

A collection of searing and heart-wrenching stories by an anonymous North Korean writer who is still living in North Korea and whose manuscript was smuggled out to be published abroad—the first piece of dissident fiction to ever come out of the country.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 256
  • Publication Date January 16, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2751-8
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 256
  • Publication Date March 07, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2620-7
  • Dimensions 5" x 5"
  • US List Price $25.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date March 07, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-8934-9
  • US List Price $25.00

About The Book

The Accusation is a deeply moving and eye-opening piece of fiction that exposes the truth of the North Korean regime. Set during the period of Kim Jong-Il’s leadership, the seven stories that make up The Accusation throw light on different aspects of life in this most bizarre and horrifying of dictatorships.

One story, “Life of a Swift Seed,” tells the tale of a war hero and former ardent Communist who plants an elm tree in his back garden to commemorate one of his brothers-in-arms. A family friend who works at a nearby factory must decide whether he will intercede on this man’s behalf when the tree is to be cut down to make way for a new power line and the war hero is prepared to defend it with his life. In another story, “City of Specters,” a Pyongyang mother’s young son misbehaves during a party rally, crying out when he sees a portrait of Karl Marx, whom he thinks is a monster of Korean myth known as the Eobi. In one other story, a mother attempts to feed her husband during the worst years of North Korea’s famine, and in another, a woman in a perilous situation meets the Dear Leader himself.

As a whole, The Accusation is a vivid and frightening portrait of what it means to live in a completely closed-off society, and a heartbreaking yet hopeful portrayal of the humanity that persists even in such dire circumstances.


“Searing fiction by an anonymous dissident . . . A fierce indictment of life in the totalitarian North.” —Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times

The Accusation shines a light on the dark half of the Korean peninsula with stories that are as readable as they are important . . . If these stories are an exorcism for the author, they are a revelation for us; The Accusation is fiction, but it is fiction that screams truth. Like its great literary predecessor One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Accusation is a powerful work that seems destined to serve as the go-to example, and indictment, of life in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” —Michael Melgaard, National Post

“A collection of courageous and confounding short stories . . . expertly translated by Deborah Smith . . . Shows similarities of both quality and content to stories by authors as various as Gorky, Solzhenitsyn and Chen Ruoxi, or even Chinese contemporaries such as Yan Lianke . . . Vivid and uncompromising storytelling.” —Megan Walsh, New Statesman (UK)

“For readers interested in a candid look at life in North Korea, The Accusation . . . will immerse you via the stories of common folk.” —Millions

“A rare piece of fiction from one of the world’s most repressive regimes . . . A dramatic page-turner.” —Thu-Huong Ha, Quartz

The Accusation takes us across a deep cultural and political border . . . The stories, written between 1989 and 1995, constitute a passionate J’accuse . . . Shines a necessary light on what remains one of the darkest places on Earth.” —Alex Good, Hamilton Spectator

“These short works offer powerful insights into a world behind walls . . . In its scope and courage, The Accusation is an act of great love.” —RO Kwon, Guardian

The Accusation continues to make international history as the first literary work smuggled out of repressive North Korea . . . Illuminating stories that reveal desperate lives enduring terrifying day-to-day challenges . . . British translator Smith . . . expertly delivers Bandi’s subversive prose with nuanced grace . . . As Bandi’s characters both fear and sling accusations, the title takes on piercing gravitas for readers.” —Terry Hong, Booklist (starred review)

“With these uncompromising stories, the pseudonymous Bandi gives a rare glimpse of life in the “truly fathomless darkness” of North Korea . . . An endnote about how Bandi’s collection was smuggled out of the country reveals just how miraculous it is that it exists at all.” —Publishers Weekly

“Fugitive fiction—literally—from inside North Korea, devastatingly critical of the Kim dynasty and its workers’ paradise . . . There is a streak of satire in these stories, but mostly they are grimly realistic . . . Certainly the author has access to the broad sweep of North Korean society, from industrial workers and farmers to midlevel political functionaries . . . An important document of witness.” —Kirkus Reviews

“No fiction beyond a trickle of agitprop has passed beyond North Korea’s borders, and of course dissident voices are suppressed altogether. When it was smuggled out, this story collection became an international publishing sensation.” —Library Journal

“All we can do is to read these ‘accusations.’ Only that will save the writer who wrote and sent them out into the world at the risk of his own life.” —Kyung-Sook Shin, New York Times bestselling author of Please Look After Mom

“Bandi’s writing style is markedly different from that of Western fiction . . . The rather bare-bones, bracing style fits the stories told. Their content has so much implicit drama and heartache, there’s no need to elaborate . . . The Accusation is a quick read . . . Worthy of attention.” —Crime Fiction Lover

“Well-crafted stories . . . The Accusation . . . is a haunting, disturbing collection . . . worthwhile.” —M.A.Orthofer, Complete Review

The Accusation courageously speaks for millions of people who collectively long for a life of peace.” —Culture Trip

“[A] remarkable collection of stories . . . Revealing the terrible truth of living in a country where any any freedoms are curtailed, where famine and brutality are rife, but where human belief and hope can survive any odds, this is a defining read for 2017.” —Emerald Street (UK)

“Very rare fiction to emerge from the secretive dictatorship . . . on its way to becoming an international literary sensation.” —Alison Flood, Guardian (UK)

“Plunges us into the daily life of families in North Korea. These stories are the cry of a man suffocated by totalitarianism. These are also the cry of an entire people . . . The writing is simple, humble, which gives it its beauty. The seven stories shine with humanity and tenderness.” —Aleteia

“Of incredible value . . . The classic construction reminds us of Gogol and Chekhov, and for their taste for absurdist satire, Ionesco and Bulgakov.” —Books Magazine

“The appearance of this collection of seven stories is a true publishing event.” —Livres Hebdo

“Describes in very impressionistic, subtle, almost veiled tones the daily life of a dictatorship . . . I was almost groggy by the time I finished reading, reminding myself of just how lucky I am to live in a democracy . . . I thought of Orwell and Kafka but realized that the country described here really exists and that there are people who are living there, perhaps not even knowing that a different kind of life is possible.” —L’Express

“The force of this collection of novellas evokes the classics of world literature about totalitarianism.” ——L’ours

“A message in a bottle that is so precious that we should all reach out to grab it and thus better understand the tragedy of the last Marxist regime in the world.” —Le Revenu

“A book to burst the silence.” —La Vie

“‘Bandi’ presents a grim picture of life under Kim Il Sung (and just thereafter). All of this took place over twenty years ago, but even with whatever improvements there may have been, it is a fairly accurate description of what life looks like in North Korea today. The translation is great and brings the overwhelming sadness and despair there to life. As one of the few folks who will have read this and also been to North Korea I can tell you that it is really what it seemed like when I was there last summer.” —Steve Bercu, Book People

“This is a work of unassailable tragedy. There are points you can’t bring yourself to read anymore, it’s a full blown, collision course that cannot be avoided. You want to scream out—how can life be this cruel? But you don’t, for as you learn in The Accusation, that will do no good . . . Bandi has looked into the soul of the Workers’ Party, its machinations, and discovered its dark, demonic heart.”—Arsalan Isa, The News on Sunday (Pakistan)


Winner of a PEN Translates Award
A World Literature Today Notable Translation of 2017


From “City of Specters”

It was getting on evening the previous Saturday when it first happened. A citizens’ rally was taking place in Kim Il-Sung Square, with the aim of encouraging people to be ever more energetic in preparing for the celebrations. Everyone was pushed for time, so the rally had been organized at an hour when most workers would be heading home for the day. Myeong-shik had had a cold, and Gyeong-hee, reluctant to leave him in that state, couldn’t very well absent herself from the rally, so in the end she’d strapped him to her back and gone into the square. Myeong-shik was prone to colds, seemingly a product of his weak constitution, but this was something different–his tiny body burning hot against her back told Gyeong-hee that this fever wasn’t to be dismissed as a mere sniffle. Her group was at the head of the square’s far-left column, directly beneath the glowering gaze of Karl Marx.

In the haze of dusk, before the square’s electric lighting was switched on, that reddish black face with its great swathe of hair would have sent shivers down the spine of even the most stolid Party cadre. Perhaps it was that which accounted for Gyeong-hee’s unwonted recollection of a line from the first passage of The Communist Manifesto, which she’d read at some point during college.

“A specter is haunting Europe–the specter of Communism.”

Had Marx inadvertently been writing his autobiography? The phrase was a mysteriously fitting description of how his portrait appeared just then: closer in form to some spectral presence than an actual human being, plucked from some ghastly legend.