Younger Writers

Jungeun
The title of this essay is my name. That’s how I spell it in English. It’s spelled the same way on my passport. I began learning English in middle school. It was the first foreign language I learned. I remember staring blankly at the words “Good Morning” and “Good Evening” in my textbook on the first day of class, clueless of how to read them (the classmate who sat with me made fun of me at the time, but I had my revenge later when I used her name in a novel…). Soon after the semester began, I went down...
To Observe, Observe, and Observe
Kim Junghyuk, who is in the vanguard of contemporary Korean literature along with writers like Kim Ae-ran, Pyun Hye Young, and Yoon Sunghee, made his debut sixteen years ago. The jacket of his latest book, Embracing with Fake Arms , which won the Dongin Literary Award last year, sports a rather unusual author bio: a listing of his published titles, numbering around thirty short-stories and three novels, and nothing more. Kim is a versatile artist, having tried his hand at a number of roles like magazine reporter, illustrator, and web designer before debuting as a writer, and he’s still very...
World of Lint
I’ve never been to New York. I haven’t been to Singapore, either. I don’t like rum. Rum, to me, is sacred music. The desk where I do my writing is two meters long. Those two meters are divided into four zones of exactly fifty centimeters each. Paper and pencil to the left, something to drink on the right, and a laptop in the middle. In the mornings, I drink coffee, and in the evenings, water. I’ve been to London. I love the weather there. I’ve been to Paris too, but the weather in Paris isn’t as dark and damp as...
The Place Behind: Contemplating Hwang Jungeun
I once had to call up Hwang Jungeun about doing a book reading. I was on my way back home after finishing a part-time job, so I was distracted during the call. In the middle of my spiel, she interrupted me, “I’m surprised you’re being so formal.” Was she right? Was I being too formal? Still swaddled in the exaggerated politeness demanded by the part-time job, I was stiff. When had I stopped behaving naturally? Or was this more natural for me? It felt as though I’d called her with a mask on, only to have my face exposed. I...
The Non-Peril of Meeting Your Heroes
I first became aware of Bae Suah four years ago, in my first year studying for a Korean literature PhD. I was struggling through a book of Korean criticism when I stumbled across a critic castigating her for “doing violence to the Korean language.” For me, this was catnip, especially as I’d recently discovered the work of the late Brazilian author Clarice Lispector, neglected in her lifetime due to her unconventional spelling and grammar, now heralded for that same autodidactic originality. The following year I received an LTI Korea grant to translate The Essayist’s Desk, Bae’s semi-autobiographical 2005 novel about...
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...
An Artist Who Fails … And Fails Yet Again
What is so special about being a writer? From time to time, I get asked this question. It sounds like a run-of-the-mill question, but answering it isn’t easy. When I started off as a writer, I could afford to be evasive. But now that nearly twenty years have passed, I’ve come up with two answers to this question. The first is that writers are artists who live within overlapping time periods. Anywhere from one year to five years, Kim Takhwan the writer criss-crosses the timeline of the year he is living in and that of the novel he is working...
The Girl in Black
When I was a child, Korea was like an island. A society with a thick wall of taboos, oppression, secrets, irrationality. From as far back as I can remember, I was like a child trapped inside a mirror. There was another world, a real world, on the far side of the mirror’s transparent wall, and though my gaze could reach beyond that wall, and though I could imagine all that lay there, it wasn’t something I could touch with my own two hands. I think it was probably due to growing up in such an environment that the very first...
Hitting the Target
What is baseball? Breaking free. Focusing on that one line reaching out across the field. Finishing when you arrive. Shouts that confirm what happened. Kim Kyung-uk’s novel What Is Baseball? asks this question. Poetic. I have been a fan of Kim Kyung-uk’s novels for a long time. Since he has been writing for twenty-two years, I have been a fan for all those twenty-two years (and it has been seven years since we became friends). When a poet becomes a novelist’s fan, it means that their novels are highly poetic. At least that’s how it is in my case. To...
Please, Pyun Hye Young, Don’t Stop Walking
For a long time, Pyun Hye Young worked in an office in the city. Nowadays she works at a university teaching creative writing, but she must still be spending a lot of time in an office. I imagine that her documents and scraps of paper, dappled with her fingerprints, are piled up in a basement storeroom in a secret building, and there a shadow, having lost its body, is reading out the sentences written on the old, soggy paper. The voice of the shadow echoes along an iron staircase which runs up to the office. Pyun Hye Young likes paper...

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