Questioning the Ethics of Desire: An Affair, of No One by Choi Ihn Suk

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.14 Winter 2011
  • byCho Yeon-jung
An Affair, of No One

Whether it is the unquenchable desire for money, the desire to break free of one’s humble routine to live a different life, or the desire to peep into another’s existence, human desire exists in a variety of forms, none of which can be judged hastily along moral lines. This is because we are all slaves to our desires.

An Affair, of No One may be read as a questioning of the ethics of desire, for at the center of the narrative, an illicit love affair unfolds between Sujin, a factory worker’s wife, and Jang-u, a member of a powerful financial conglomerate. Sujin escapes from her poor family into her own secret space to enjoy peace. Her husband Sang-gon attempts to conceal his ineffectuality beneath silence and violence. Jang-u, with his parasitic family members, regards all human relationships as forms of transactions. Dae-il is a film director with nothing but intellectual vanity to his name. And Yeonsook is a department store clerk who uses her body as a weapon in confronting the world. In the complicated relationships that exist among these characters, the author shows us the naked faces of desire.

In view of these abject faces, is it possible to speak of good and evil? The author does not push his characters, the haves and the have-nots, and those who take and those who are taken from, into a simple oppositional moral framework. The reason is as follows. According to author Choi, all of us, having desire or wrapped up in our own selfish desire, cannot acknowledge the desires of others, and may somehow be thought of as victims rather than transgressors. An Affair, of No One is awash with the sad faces of enervated characters who cannot become the subjects of their own desires.