Inspired by Despair: Sir Chancellor by Bae Myung-hoon

  • onOctober 26, 2014
  • Vol.19 Spring 2013
  • byChoi Sungmin
Sir Chancellor

In this collection of short stories, an election is a battleground where a plethora of desires clash by way of each candidate. An election comes to a close when the winner and loser are decided. Although it may not be long before the voters who voted for the winner will feel betrayed by the leader they chose, for the time being they cannot help but cheer and gloat in the joy of victory. The defeated and his supporters offer congratulations and encouragement to the victor, but they also despair at the thought of the authority the victor will wield as the leader. Here, at the point of despair, a fantasy will arise. If private fantasy is born when personal desire has been crushed, then social fantasy is created when collective desire has been thwarted by social institutions or authority.

Most of the 10 short stories in Sir Chancellor are set in a virtual society where a chancellor reigns. “Bicentennial Chancellor” starts off with a brilliant scientist who despises the new chancellor, and so is frozen and preserved by his wife for five years. He comes back to life after five years but the chancellor is still in power. The scientist repeats his frozen hibernation several more times, but each time the chancellor is still reigning over the citizens.

Another short story, “Next Year,” is about a strange world where the year 2012 repeats continuously for 30 years. In “Great Resolution,” the chancellor, who has been taken over by a vindictive spirit, is obsessed with a water construction project that brings about his downfall.

Most of the stories contained in this collection are fantasies with a dystopian imagination; however, because they are told with humor, they do not read like bleak tales. Hard realities such as the canal controversy and cronyism reveal the political reality of Korean society. 

Author's Profile

Bae Myung-hoon (b.1978) began his literary career with the Daehak Literary Award in 2004 and the Science Technology Creative Writing Award in 2005 for his short story “Smart D.” His short story collections include Tower and Hello, The Artificial Being! His novels are Define Orbit, Decoy, Sir Chancellor, and The Proposal.