In Search of a Stranger: I Met Lo Kiwan by Cho Haejin
- onOctober 23, 2014
- Vol.13 Autumn 2011
- byKang Yu-jung
- I Met Lo Kiwan
It all starts with the initial, “L.” Right now, here, in this place, living in Seoul, a woman is gravely wounded. It’s not clear what has wounded her, but with this stimulus, she finally decides to write a novel rather than a script for a radio broadcast. The woman takes this one initial, “L,” and leaves as if possessed, but why has she gone in search of Lo Kiwan?
In Cho Haejin’s I Met Lo Kiwan, a woman goes in search of Lo Kiwan, but ultimately her journey can be regarded as one of finding herself and returning. Whether she meets Lo Kiwan or not is probably immaterial.
As a traveller, exile, and a fugitive, Lo experiences foreign living for the first time. To him, day-to-day life abroad verges on being a death-defying adventure. Several times the narrator becomes entangled in his feelings, using his diary as the basis for pursuing herself.
Cho Haejin’s I Met Lo Kiwan is no fanciful tale; it bears the truth of a writer plunging herself completely into a stranger’s life. The novel’s protagonist and narrator goes in search of Lo Kiwan in order to find herself. Saying she understands him is the flip side of saying the character “I” understands herself. This is related to the guilt she feels for regarding “Yun-ju” as only the “main character” of radio scripts.
Ultimately, one can see that through a novel, the story of someone else’s life, one can undertake the process of understanding oneself. After flying over ten 10 hours on an airplane to a foreign land, and encountering Park, Yun-ju, and Lo Kiwan, eventually the woman discovers an empty place in herself. Nothing is understood; nothing is settled. The novel teaches us that this inadequate answer is the most honest revelation.
Cho Haejin (b.1976) debuted when she won the New Writer’s Awards and was published by the quarterly magazine Munye Joongang in 2006. She authored the short story collection City of Angels and the novels I Met Lo Kiwan and A Forest That No One Has Seen.