When a writer from North Korea finds an English-language publisher, it is usually dissident literature, telling of tortuous escapes from an oppressive regime and its abuses of human rights. Adding a different perspective to the hermit kingdom is the recently published “Friend,” a state-approved novel by Paek Nam-nyong.

An interesting cultural and historical artifact, “Friend” was written for North Koreans by one of the country’s most celebrated novelists, which means for readers abroad to find value, it should be taken exactly for what it is. No use searching here for hidden subversion: This story passed the censors for a reason.

Friend: A Novel from North Korea, by Paek Nam-nyongTranslated by Immanuel Kim240 pagesCOLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS