Before He Chooses Death: Why Didn’t I Die? by Choi Jin Young

  • onOctober 27, 2014
  • Vol.23 Spring 2014
  • byChoi Jaebong
Why Didn't I Die?

Choi Jin Young’s first novel, The Name of the Girl Who Passed By You was awarded the 15th Hankyoreh Literary Award in 2010, bringing her great recognition. The main character, who runs away from her violent father and helpless mother, wanders around the world trying to find her “real mother.”

Following Endless Song (2011), Choi’s third novel, Why Didn’t I Die?, features a main character who is as strong and controversial as the character in her first novel, “Wondo is like the snuck-out garbage thrown in a secluded place in a black plastic bag.” He is found pocketing money from the bank where he works and after his business fails, his wife and daughter leave him and he is on the run. Although he “has lost everything in the blink of an eye,” and thinks it would be better if he just died, he does not commit suicide. This is not due to his attachment to life, rather he postpones his death while reviewing his life in order to look for “the decisive moment…the one moment when my life went wrong.”

In his first memory, his father killed himself in front of six-year-old Wondo. After that, subsequent memories follow: his mother’s neglect of her own son since she was too busy volunteering for orphans and the aged; his friend Jang Minseok from the orphanage, who got all his mother’s love and affection instead of Wondo; and women whom he had loved. These memories, which are as painful as dying, ironically wind up delaying Wondo’s suicide plans. Wondo’s inner voice stands out in bold letters, effectively emphasizing his confused mind. 

Author's Profile

Choi Jin Young (b. 1981) made her literary debut when she won the Silcheon Munhak (Literature of Practice). New Writer’s Award in 2006. She is the author of two novels, The Name of the Girl Who Brushed Against You Is… and Unfinished Song, and the short story collection, The Top.