- Beauty Looks Down on Me
Tr. Yoonjin Park / Craig Bott / Sora Kim-Russell / Jae Won Chung 2017160pp.
A melange of nameless narrators, changing bodies, a floating woman, and Dostoevsky-style doubles charge through Eun Heekyung’s short story collection Beauty Looks Down on Me. These six stories weave through the characters’ everyday lives, which often feel as if they are teetering between the common and elements plucked from fairy tales. Characters are obsessed with both their bodies and their identities, the main fascinations of each of the stories.
Although the settings are rooted in the prosaic—train carriages, offices, cafés—some of the stories tread into mild dream-like atmospheres. In “Discovery of Solitude,” the unnamed narrator is a loner. He even spends his birthday alone musing to himself that he “felt the distinct comfort of knowing there was nobody in the world who was thinking of [him] at that moment.” While in thought, he also reminisces of an unnamed fairy tale—no doubt, Pinocchio—with a wooden boy whose nose grows when he lies. The narrator proffers a rewrite: What if, instead of having his nose grow, he floated into the air? He would be able to see more of the world and live a literal lighter existence. Through literary happenstance, the loner narrator meets a woman who tells him of her divided selves:
“There are several me’s spread out all over the world, living in different places and at different times. They’re all very different. . . . They all exist separately, but if at one point they all think the same thought, we suddenly become apparent to other people.”