A Parallel Life: Another Man’s City by Choi Inho

  • onNovember 16, 2014
  • Vol.25 Autumn 2014
  • byWest Camel
Another Man’s City
Tr. Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton

Choi Inho(Ch’oe In-ho)’s last novel was written as he struggled with the cancer that finally killed him. And, as Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton tell us in their translators’ note to this, the first English version of Another Man’s City, Choi wanted to be remembered for the book, not for his celebrity in his native Korea, and not for the disease from which he suffered.

It seems apt, then, that the Fultons chose to name this novel Another Man’s City, rather than the more literal “The City of Familiar Others.” Just as K., the protagonist of this strange and uncanny work, begins to sense that he is living someone else’s life, Choi himself perhaps wanted to be another man. And, maybe, as his death loomed near, he felt he wanted to pass the cup.

For, read in the knowledge that it was written by a dying man, this novel takes on a very particular meaning.

The hero, K., wakes up to find that key elements of his life—his aftershave, his pajamas (or lack thereof), even his wife— have subtly changed. Over the following days, the intimation steadily grows that somehow, through some strange agency, he has stepped outside his own life, and into that of another, parallel K. It takes no great mental leap to imagine that this may be what it is like to know that one is facing death.

This speculation appears to be confirmed, when, towards the end of the book, K. actually meets the “other K.”; he feels “autoscopic, believed the appearance of a doppelgänger presaged imminent death.”

Faced with “imminent death,” the existential and spiritual wonderings of K. and, by extension, his author, that fill much of this thoughtful and often playful book, seem natural, poignant, and in the hands of this master storyteller, beautifully honest. 


by West Camel
Editor, Dalkey Archive Press