Flâneur, Fighter, Fiction Writer

 

Fans of Kim Takhwan can be classified into two groups. Readers who like the clever detective work of The Fellowship of the White Tower, about a band of intellectuals from the latter half of the Joseon dynasty, will find themselves becoming ardent Fellowship fans. The second group will be enthralled by Revolution, the first book in Kim’s Annals of the Joseon Dynasty series. Those who appreciate strong writing and enjoy leisurely savoring a character’s life will identify with the revolutionaries in Hyecho and I, Hwang Jini as well. Kim has also written opuses like The Immortal Yi Sun-sin and sci-fi novels like The Blind Scientist, which he wrote in collaboration with an engineer. With the publication of his latest work, The Magician from Joseon, yet another group of Kim Takhwan fans is set to emerge—those who could be classified as a sunny and joyful bunch, since this novel has the most lovable characters among all of Kim’s works to date.

     As for me, I count myself part of the revolutionary group. And yet, my favorite Kim Takhwan novel is Russian Coffee, the lightest among his weighty tomes. A novel that, while following the course of a river, doesn’t get caught up in its currents but rather soars lightly, like a butterfly. The charm of Kim’s fiction, for me, rests here.

     The label “historical fiction writer” follows Kim everywhere. Calling him a writer who scoops up stories along the road would be more accurate. He looks at the whole of history, paying close attention to people who set off on distant journeys, and contemplates for a long time the meanings stamped in their steps. He is particularly observant of people on the road, especially if they’re traveling to distant shores. A seeker of truth wanderin...