In the dead of winter, a Frenchman arrives at a small guest house in Sokcho where Franco-Korean author Elisa Shua Dusapin’s narrator works in a dead-end job as receptionist and run-about. Sokcho is a nondescript seaside town not far from the North Korean border. In the summer, Sokcho is a beach resort, if not the most upmarket; in winter, there is not much going on.

The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro is a curious little volume. In length, perhaps 10,000 words, it is long for a short story but short for a novella. The protagonist, a minor feudal lord in late Tokugawa Japan, was an actual person (apparently: like much else here, it is hard to be sure), his life heavily fictionalized according to the author’s note. While labeled a “tale” or “story”, the narrative in fact lacks much of might conventionally be called a plot.