Diary of a Murderer

  • onAugust 3, 2016
  • Vol.32 Summer 2016
  • byKim Young-ha
Diary of a Murderer

I killed people regularly for thirty years. I was really diligent back then. Now the statute of limitations has passed for them all and I can even go on about them anywhere. If this was America I could probably publish a memoir. People would attack me. Let them, if they want. It’s not like I have many days left. If I think about it, I’m a pretty tough one. After all those killings, I stopped cold. I felt like, well, like a boatman who’d just sold his boat or a mercenary who’d just retired. I can’t say for sure, but there must have been guys in the Korean War or the Vietnam War who killed more people than me. Do you think they’re all losing sleep over it? I don’t think so. Guilt is fundamentally a weak emotion. Fear, anger, or jealousy is much stronger. In the grips of fear or anger, you won’t fall asleep. When I watch a movie or TV show with someone unable to sleep because of guilt, I laugh. What are these writers who don’t know a thing about life trying to say?


One of my walls is covered with notes. They are notes of various colors that stay on the wall when you stick them on, and though I don’t know where they came from, they’re all over the house. Eunhui might have bought them to help me remember. These notes have a special name, but I can’t remember what that is right now. After the north wall was covered with these notes, now the wall facing west is plastered with them, but they’re no good. They’re notes I don’t understand, notes I don’t remember why I stuck there in the first place. Like the one saying “You must tell Eunhui.” What was I supposed to tell her? Each of the notes are like distant stars in the universe to me. Nothing seems to connect them to each other. There, there’s also one that the doctor wrote for me:

“Imagine it like a freight car hurtling forward without knowing the rails are cut off ahead. What do you think would happen? Wouldn’t the train and the freight pile up at the point where the tracks stop? And it would be chaos wouldn’t it? Sir, this is exactly what’s happening inside your head right now.”


I remember an old lady I met in the poetry class. She told me that in the past—she emphasized this part—she had had a lot of love affairs. She said, I don’t regret it. When you get old, they’re all memories. Whenever I’m bored I think about each of the men I slept with.

I’m living just like that old lady. I recall each of the people that have died at my hands. Now that I think about it there was a movie about that. Memories of a Murder.


I believe in zombies. There’s no reason why something you can’t see doesn’t exist. I often watch zombie movies. I once kept an axe in my bedroom. When Eunhui asked why I kept an axe there, I said it was because of zombies. Axes work best on dead people.


The worst thing in the world is to be murdered. That’s the one thing that I won’t let happen to me.


I hid the syringe in the sewing kit near my head. A lethal dose of pentobarbital sodium. It’s a drug used to put cows and pigs to sleep. I’m thinking of using it on myself when I get to the point where I’m smearing my shit across the walls. I can’t let it go that far.


I’m afraid. Frankly, I’m kind of afraid.

I’ll read a sutra. 


pp. 44–47
Translated by Krys Lee

Author's Profile

The English editions of Kim Young-ha’s I Have the Right to Destroy MyselfYour Republic Is Calling You, and Black Flower were published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who will also publish his latest book in 2017. Kim was a resident writer at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program in 2003, and a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times from 2013 to 2014. His books have appeared in more than twelve languages.