Finding the Author’s Spirit

I am a third-generation Korean born in Russia.

I studied in Russian schools, and used the Korean language only at home with my parents. When I decided to become a writer, I had no choice in what language to write, because the only language I knew was Russian.

However, when I started my journey as an author, I faced another serious problem, a problem that every writer experiences no matter in what language they write—to find their individual style. I found myself quite well read, I developed a taste for good language, but in my first attempts to create literature I tried to imitate the styles of others. It felt like my real life experience and my spiritual self did not want to dwell in those works. They seemed imitative, without any hope for originality. I could not stand the fact that my stories were lifeless, so I destroyed them without hesitation.

Once I started to write about Koreans, about my friends and colleagues from Sakhalin, whom I met on this wonderful island and who were moved here by the finger of fate, suddenly I felt that something alive and undoubtedly mine began to appear in my stories. An original, genuine, true language of prose was flowing from my pen. As soon as I tried to look at the sea with Korean eyes, listen to the Sakhalin wind with Korean ears, perceive the human world with a Korean soul, I found my own full-fledged language of fiction in Russian.

I found out that the language of fiction, the language of prose, not only presents an author’s writing skills, but most of all expresses an immortal spirit of one’s own people. It is not the language that is important but the spirit, whether it is expressed through the language of Koreans, Russians, the French, or Native Americans.

A Native American, Mato Najin, hereditary chief of the Oglala Lakota Sioux, wrote a book titled My People, the Sioux in English, and the book conveys the true Indian spirit. That Indian spirit influenced the language used in the book, endowing it with a sense of tra...