Near the beginning of A Greater Music, the narrator, a young Korean writer, falls into an icy river in the Berlin suburbs, where she's been house-sitting for her on-off boyfriend Joachim. This sets into motion a series of memories that move between the hazily defined present and the period three years ago when she first lived in Berlin. Throughout, the narrator's relationship with Joachim, a rough-and-ready metalworker, is contrasted with her friendship with M, an ultra-refined music-loving German teacher, whom, it is suggested, later became her lesbian lover.
Bae Suah is one of the most highly acclaimed contemporary Korean authors, with over ten short story collections and five novels to her name. She received the Hanguk Ilbo literary prize in 2003, and the Tongseo literary prize in 2004. She has also translated several books from the German, including works by W. G. Sebald, Franz Kafka, and Jenny Erpenbeck. Nowhere to be Found, translated by Sora Kim-Russell, was the first of her books to appear in English, and was longlisted for a PEN Translation Prize. Deborah Smith's literary translations from the Korean include two novels by Han Kang (The Vegetarian and Human Acts), and two by Bae Suah, (A Greater Music and Recitation). She also recently founded Tilted Axis Press to bring more works from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East into English.