Pachinko is a game for both groups and individuals.” This quotation from Roland Barthes opens Elisa Shua Dusapin’s most recent novel, The Pachinko Marbles. A group game because the arcades where pachinko – a Japanese variation on pinball – is played are full of rows of adjacent slot machines and an individual game because, when you play, you are intensely alone. The Swiss-Korean author uses this metaphor to tell a story; a story that tackles the issues of identity and otherness, through the prism of language and culture.
An out-of-season South Korean resort, a mysterious foreign visitor and a young woman whose dual nationality and anguished diffidence mark her out as an anomaly among her community are the main components of French-Korean author Elisa Shua Dusapin’s compact first novel. The book is set in Sokcho, a city so close to South Korea’s impenetrable northern counterpart that it is possible to take a day trip over the border.