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The Sorcerer of Pyongyang

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Teacher Kang raised his head from the book and gave Jun-su a careful sideways glance. For a moment, it seemed to Jun-su that he’d gone too far and was about to get a telling off. Then the old man began to read aloud.

The Sorcerer of Pyongyang by Marcel Theroux BBC Radio 4 - The Sorcerer of Pyongyang by Marcel Theroux

Who are the worst?” asked Jun-su. He sensed his father was distracted so he asked it again. In truth, it wasn’t a sincere question: every school-age child in North Korea knew the answer. The worst were the Yankee imperialists who had waged war on North Korea, who had divided the North from the South, and who had been defeated by the courage of the North Korean people inspired by the Juche idea. Like children around the world, Jun-su just enjoyed hearing the same stories told over and over, and he was priming his father for this one. Jun-su suddenly knew exactly what was happening. He knew the reason for the crowds, the sense of excitement—and even, in a strange way, for his good fortune with the food vendor.His mother gazed at its extraordinary cover. “Where did you get this?” she asked sharply. “Did Teacher Kang give this to you?”

The Sorcerer of Pyongyang by Marcel Theroux | Waterstones The Sorcerer of Pyongyang by Marcel Theroux | Waterstones

Silence fell on the classroom. But try as he might, Jun-su found he couldn’t keep still. His rolling and twitching continued. One mealtime, a classmate called Ryu Bong-li jeered at Jun-su because he no longer worked with the others in the paddy field. “Jun-su does little girls’ work,” said Bong-li. Now Jun-su started to notice other strange preparations for the visit. A layer of sand had been raked over the concrete in front of them. The two vehicles were green army jeeps, not the luxury cars that the Dear Leader would travel in.Jun-su wasn’t sure what had suggested the insult. It had arisen spontaneously from some secret part of him. But it hit its target like a Magic Arrow spell. The other boys laughed uproariously. Bong-li flushed with shame. His eyes went glassy and he lowered his head to hide his tears.

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