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The Disaster Tourist Reviews

The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-Eun, Lizzie Buehler

The Disaster Tourist

Yun Ko-Eun, Lizzie Buehler

4.17 out of 5

4 reviews

Imprint: Profile Books Ltd
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Publication date: 14 May 2020
ISBN: 9781788163149
4 stars out of 5
Simon Ings
16 Jul 2020

"I’d say this was a perfect short novel for reading on the beach, but given what’s in store..."

If Yona blows the gaffe, and Jungle cancels its tour agreement, then there’s only one thing the islanders can do: stage another catastrophe, better and bigger than the last. As the enormity of the islanders’ plans dawns on her, Yona falls in love, grows in courage and rises in our estimation. Meanwhile the forces pitched against her reveal their true scale and monstrosity in a frothy-seeming satire that, in the end, shreds the very idea of commerce to bleeding tatters. 


4 stars out of 5
Saba Ahmed
9 Jul 2020

"an entertaining eco-thriller that sets out to illuminate the way climate change is inextricably bound up with the pressures of global capitalism"

Translator Lizzie Buehler deftly coveys the subtle tonalities of the prose, variously graceful and light (when Yona goes into work, she feels “like a dandelion seed that had somehow drifted into a building”), witty and absurd, then suspenseful, even terror-filled. Descriptions of the climactic disaster are flattened and attenuated, becoming strangely euphoric as the narrative focuses on all the anonymous lives shattered, people dispossessed by forces beyond any of the characters’ imaginations.

4 stars out of 5
5 Jul 2020

"A plain rendering of the extraordinary"

By now the level of intrigue and scheming – involving the exploitation of the most vulnerable local people – is at such an alarming scale that only nature can outdo it. Utter devastation awaits. The abhorrent past meets the despicable present. The debris of catastrophes on other islands meets at sea with that of the Mui disaster. Somewhere, people are booking a holiday to see what remains. All of this is delivered in what might be said to be a familiar form of Korean writing, known to us now, thankfully, through many translations. An ostensibly detached style, using simple language.

5 stars out of 5

"The ghoulish desire to visit scenes of catastrophe is explored in this powerful novel from South Korea"

Throughout Disaster Tourist, there is a sense of impending catastrophe, of something huge and uncontrollable swallowing up those who spend their lives packaging, controlling and creating these macabre tours. The author feels present throughout, like a god watching her characters’ acts of hubris and deciding how and when to smite them. In this phenomenal book, Yun demonstrates how disaster tourism is a kind of theatre: people are ‘merchandise’, the reality tourists just ‘a shadow of reality’.