Adam Johnson, writer of THAT North Korea novel, on his absurd world


When Adam Johnson won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, for a novel set in North Korea, many were surprised that an American academic who had spent just five days in the country could write so convincingly and colourfully about the hermit kingdom. Understand a little about the author and his life, though, and it begins to make sense.

The success of The Orphan Master’s Son (Random House) turned Johnson almost overnight from what he calls a “normal writer” into one with celebrity status.

“North Korea is a topic that people care about around the world, so suddenly I started getting invited everywhere,” says Johnson, a professor of English at Stanford University, in the United States.

But there was a drawback to the international invitations – separated from his family he began to get lonely. The solu­tion? Take them with him.

“Everywhere I go I drag my wife and kids,” says Johnson.

So, when he arrives for the Hong Kong International Literary Festival this week, he’ll do so accompanied by a family entourage of four. Read more