The salmon who dared to leap higher by Ahn Do-Hyun

The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher

The salmon who dared to leap higher by Ahn Do-Hyun

Korean Fiction

Original title – 연어 이야기 (연어 그 두 번째 이야기)

Translator – Deborah Smith

Source – Review copy



“War Of Man”

The little creatures
run in from the cold
Back to the nest
just like the days of old
There in the safety
of a mother’s arms
The warmth of ages,
far away from harm again.

Ears ringin’
from the battle fire
The tired warrior
aims a little higher
The black falcon
or the little sparrow
The healing light
or the flash of the barrel.

I choose a song from Neil young his war of man ,which has an eco message behind it .

When this book dropped through the letter box the other week , I nearly put it too one side till I saw it was translated by Deborah , whom I have spoken with on twitter and had a brief chat with at LBF and did talk about this book as i finished it a few days before  .Although the cover was appealing as well . Ahn Do-Hyn has won numerous prizes in Korea including the so-wol poetry prize which is one of the best known poetry prizes in Korea .He studied Korean literature and this is his first book to be translated into English .

Silver salmon had managed to avoid becoming a meal for the fierce eagle .

And yet , something strange – rather than the giddy relief of having cheated death , he feels a pang of sadness at having escaped unharmed . Because the salmon who had been caught – the one who’d swum by his side ever since they left their home river ,

Silver salmon escapes the clutches of a fish eagle .

This book is part of a series of novels that are marketed in Korea as Adult fables (thanks to Deborah for that ) .The salmon who dared to leap higher is the story of one salmon’s journey  the silver salmon  as we follow them from the sea up the river he came from .The journey is a perilous one that sees many of the salmon’s swimming along side . We are told little stories of the companions along side  . The fish have to avoid eagles and bears as they try to get to the river head . Of course the book is more a fable of modern life in Korea and the river maybe is the everyday journey in life of Koreans they are maybe the salmon’s trying to reach the river head and mate have children etc .But also the world around them and the human world .

Bag-of-bones salmon was also in possessions of exceptional memory . His mind was like an enormous storehouse where all manner of facts are filed and preserved .Circling over the riverbed ,he mutters to himself , “Yes , the rapids have increased in height by 35 centimetres since we leapt down over them ”

The salmon remember the world through a sort of collective passing of tales almost their own fables .

I read this in one sitting , which for me is the sign of a book of  120 pages I have actually really enjoyed . This is a fun fable , I initially compared it in my head to Jonathan Livingstone seagull and yes the salmon of the story journey through its life is similar too Jonathan’s journey . But for me this is maybe more based in Korean culture , I was reminded of one of the other books I read from Korea on the Blog please look after mother and maybe this is the same story in a fable manner the salmon as a whole are trying to reach a point but some get eaten and some just can’t make the journey and this is maybe mirroring modern Korea where the country has jumped so quickly in the last fifty years since the end of the korean war .But also serves as a remind of the natural world around them .I feel Deborah did a great job of what must be a poetic book in the original Korean a lyrical feel to the story in english .I must admit I do love the cover art as well and the book has some great illustrations through the book capture the novella well .

Have you a favourite fable ?

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Col
    Apr 24, 2015 @ 07:40:42

    I recently read The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly which if I recall was also by a Korean author ( Sun-mi Hwang?) – really enjoyed it!


    • winstonsdad
      Apr 24, 2015 @ 07:41:50

      I believe this was brought on the success of that book as that is also an adult fable so sure you’d enjoyed this one


      • Col
        Apr 24, 2015 @ 08:22:25

        I will look out for it. It’s great that the success of that book is now hopefully paving the way for others.

      • Tony
        Apr 24, 2015 @ 09:56:52

        I suspect the title has piggy-backed onto the success of ‘The Hen Who…” (much like the Scandi books ‘The Hundred-Year-Old Man who…’ and ‘The Little Old Lady Who…!). I’ve heard of this one, but I haven’t been lucky enough to receive a copy so far – then again, it’s not like I’m short of Korean books on my shelves at the moment 😉

      • winstonsdad
        Apr 24, 2015 @ 09:58:59

        I think it was brought after successful Hen book Tony

  2. Caroline
    Apr 24, 2015 @ 07:41:50

    I haven’t read any Korean literature but this sounds wonderful.


  3. Annabel (gaskella)
    Apr 24, 2015 @ 17:48:00

    Sounds sweet and I love the cover.


  4. Lisa Hill
    Apr 24, 2015 @ 23:49:47

    Fables aren’t usually a form that I enjoy much as an adult although I used to love reading Aesop’s Fables to my little five-year-olds at school and listening to them interpret them. Preps are so clever, they see with such amazing insight:)
    It’s when an author does something different with a fable that I like it, as in this case where Korea being a place that’s exotic to us, we discover new things about a culture we don’t know.
    However, there’s an Australian writer, John Hughes, who produced a stunning book of adult fables called The Garden of Sorrows which is an inversion of Aesop’s Fables going back to the beginnings of time. (See These fables ‘work’ like Aesop’s do, to teach universal truths in a different way. He uses the animals of the new world and the fables are about betrayal and violence and the birth of sorrow and wisdom and so on. They’re not suitable for little kids though they could be used in a secondary school to discuss ethics or philosophy. The book has stunning artwork so it was more than just reading, even now sitting her at my laptop I am seeing the dark and moody paintings in my mind’s eye.


  5. Trackback: The hen who dreamed she could fly by Sun – Mi Hwang | Winstonsdad's Blog

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April 2015


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