Helen Garnons-Williams, publishing director at the HarperCollins imprint, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in Marilyn and Me by Korean novelist and screenwriter Ji-min Lee,in a pre-empt from Barbara Zitwer at Barbara Zitwer Agency. The translator is the Man Asian Literary Prize-winning translator Chi Young Kim. 4th Estate will publish Marilyn & Me in Spring 2019.
Set in 1954, in the aftermath of the Korean war, Marilyn and Me unfolds over the course of four days, when Marilyn Monroe took time out from her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio to tour Korea, performing for the US soldiers stationed there. Her translator is Alice, a typist on the US base – where she is the only Korean woman making a living off the American military without being a prostitute – although everyone assumes she is. As these two women form an unlikely friendship, the story of Alice’s traumatic experiences in the war emerges, and when she becomes embroiled in a sting operation involving the entrapment of a Communist spy she is forced to confront the past she has been trying so hard to forget.
Lee is a screenwriter in Korea and author of several novels while Chi Young has translated various books including Please Look After Mom (Knopf) for which she won the Man, Asian Literary Prize in 2012, The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly (Penguin) and The Good Son (Penguin).
Garnons-Williams described Marilyn & Me as “a compelling and surprising story of damage and survival, grief and unexpected solace”.
“Alice, raw and wry and wearing her grief like armour, is a wonderful character, and her experiences offer a fascinating – and timely – insight into an extraordinary time and place. We are thrilled to be publishing this darkly beautiful novel.”
The news follows another 4th Estate acquisition of a Korean crime thriller in March, snapped up by commissioning editor Anna Kelly as part of a five-way auction. Korean authors are reportedly “reinventing the thriller” according to the Guardian, introducing an alternative to Scandi Noir.
The Man Asian Literary Prize was an annual literary award between 2007 and 2012, given to the best novel by an Asian writer.