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FICTION

Pavane for a Dead Princess

  • onNovember 10, 2014
  • Vol.12 Summer 2011
  • byPark Min-gyu
Pavane for a Dead Princess
2009
420pp.

I called her. No one answered. We sat with sorghum wine and well-cooked food. It was the kind of night where we just sat staring blankly out the window at the dark. About relationships… We probably went on about how it felt. Johann silently listened to me, nodding a few times. I don’t know anymore, Johann mumbled. I mean, I’ve never been in love… I don’t believe in love, and I’ve never even gotten to dragging it out or going more than a few months with a girl… basically, sex is everything to me, I’m that kind of guy. I don’t know why I’m that way, but there it is… but I can kind of guess what type of person must be loved. Want to see?

After fishing through a storage-like space Johann took out a light bulb. It was an odd light bulb, huge with a small, sharp needle-like object shooting out from its top. What is this? It’s Edison’s light bulb. Was it in Kyoto or Yokohama? Anyways, I was on a school trip when I bought it at some antique store that was falling apart. I think all people are like this light bulb. The light bulb was stuck in a wooden case that had been made with such care, and a line that looked like it was made out of cloth stuck out of the lower part of the case. Want to see it? He turned off all the living room lights, and as soon as Johan plugged it in, there was a brightness and softness I hadn’t seen since I was born… A warm orange light rose up, round and soft, from the dark. Wow! I exclaimed. In the dark

       it gave off light
       like the little prince’s asteroid.

I said, It’s like the B-612. Maybe, Johann mumbled. Looking like boys who’d suddenly come out from the cosmos, for a long time we were captivated by the asteroid. Was it in elementary school? Anyways, I once lived in Nara for a short while. We moved, and even though we were quiet about it, the news spread like crazy. A rumor spread that Ishida Ayumi had come. If only that had been true, but I do think that Mom looked almost like her at the time. Even after the neighborhood’s women learned it wasn’t true, my mom was really popular with them. A beautiful woman actually has more power over other women than men. I think that was probably

the last time I saw my mother’s beautiful face. After that, I never thought of my mother’s face as one of those rare beauties. The light had disappeared from it. My mother had figured out that her man had met another woman, understand? Like a light bulb that’s gone out, one day her light suddenly disappeared. The surface was the same, like glass, but there were more days when she just looked frightening. That’s when I learned, the human soul’s a lot like that filament. Any beautiful woman’s like that… If the light goes out, it’s over. For anyone, the difference between being loved and not is as big as light and dark.

Someone who gives off light is always beautiful. The stronger the light, the more the curve of the glass and the shape of the light bulb is bathed with light. Actually, most girls… the ones who’re just so-so…or girls who just don’t have it… No, with both women or men, most people are like light bulbs without any electricity yet. Once they’ve got electricity coming in, anyone can give off that light, a light that’s more beautiful and blinding than any light bulb that’s lost its light. That’s love. All people are like a wire that has a plus or minus charge. Someone meets someone else and brightens the light of each other’s souls. Everyone wants love

but the reason they don’t love one another is because each sees the light out in each other. That’s why they ignore the other. When they’re brightened with light, each… And they don’t know that each is brightened because of the other. Female singers or actresses aren’t actually beautiful because of their looks. It’s because countless numbers of people give them love. An incredible amount of electricity comes in, so they give off an endless amount of light.

And that’s not just a simple light… Ordinary people and their endless love collect like fireflies on a summer night. Finally the filament often ends up burning out. It’s because they get arrogant. They start to fall under the illusion that the light is their own. It’s just too bad that it’s the way most light changes. Anyways, they’re finally just individuals. Without receiving love in her life, any beautiful woman’s going to be like a bulb with its light out. She’s going to degenerate into a being uglier than an ordinary woman giving off light.

Humans are so dumb because they don’t realize that the light actually began with them. They think that if a single bulb explodes with light the entire world brightens. They don’t know that really, a countless number of lights have to light up for the world to become bright. They give away their energy and stay buried in the dark. And from inside the darkness they envy the others… And since they’re surrounded by darkness…they cast all their votes at them. And so these poor people vote in a dictatorship, and people who don’t seem the type allow people inside some screen to receive their love, because of this. Because they don’t trust, or expect,

their own light…or one another’s light… Because they don’t try to discover each other. Ultimately, the darkness of the world begins with one another’s darkness. Meaning, because of people like me. People who’ve just removed their own filament… People who don’t give their love to anyone… So that’s why I fail. To me, the world is like a broken electric board with endless dark bulbs stuck to it. I’m different from you… Hey, what am I doing, talking about all this dark stuff to an amigo who’s just fallen in love? No, no, it’s fine, I said. Staring vacantly… Johann who’d been staring at me held up his glass and said quietly,

       Well, cheers!
       To Anios and Anianeus!

You claimed you’d said it without meaning to, but that’s what you said. It’s because she was like that bright light bulb that had just turned on… Those exact words stayed with me even after I left Johann’s house. After walking and walking under the brightly lit street lamps, I called her. She didn’t answer. The darkness of the phone booth, the endless echo of the dial tone, stayed with me. As I was walking back with two magazines…the wait for a bus I had to take as I let it keep drifting past me…the night I took a different bus route… Even now I can’t forget it. A ten o’clock night bus

feels like a sleepwalker wandering his same unfamiliar route again and again. Should I go one more stop? After staring out the window I suddenly got off in front of a department store. Heart pounding, I ran toward a row of telephone booths. I made a phone call. No one answered. Even after hanging up and getting my change back… for a long time I couldn’t leave that glass cell. It was because I was worried about her. I didn’t know why, but for some reason 

 


* Translated by Krys Lee.

Author's Profile

Park Min-gyu debuted in 2003 with two widely-acclaimed novels: The Sammi Superstar’s Last Fan Club and Legend of Earth’s Heroes. He has authored the short story collections Castella and Double, and the novels Ping Pong and Pavane for a Dead Princess. His books in translation include Pavane for a Dead Princess (Dalkey Archive, 2014), Pavane pour une infante défunte (Decrescenzo éditeurs, 2014), and Ping-Pong (Editions Intervalles, 2016).