Imagining the Ultimate “Bed”: Bed by Choi Suchol

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.13 Autumn 2011
  • byKim Hyoung-joong

Although not mentioned by the writer himself, throughout the course of reading Choi Suchol’s Bed, there is a certain image that never leaves one’s mind, and that is none other than the idea of the bed which appears so famously in Plato’s The Republic. This bed is a concept, an image in one’s mind; there is a bed that exists in the real world, a copy of the idea of the bed; and finally there is an artist’s rendition of the bed, or a copy of the copy of the concept.

Choi Suchol’s Bed reads like a reversal of the three levels of Plato’s theory of imitation, based on a poet’s exile. Here we have a bed imagined by a writer. From that bed, we have a real-world nation (Korea) along with the incredible, miserable (and for that, important) twists and turns its modern history has taken. Then, in the end, we have the “ultimate bed,” or the idea of the nation. Some are born from that bed, and some perish there. Some experience torture, some love, some plunder, some cry, some go insane, some dream of utopia, and some find peace. Fundamentally there are an infinite number of stories that are found here and spring forth from it.

As there is nothing this nation has yet to experience, the bed itself is a storyteller, a philosopher, a conspirator, and a shaman. It encompasses the man, the woman, and exists fluidly between mythical and modern times. It is third person, then first person and moves from the point of view of an omniscient narrator to that of an observer. In the end, this bed is a divine one, an “ultimate bed.” As such, the language of this bed begets a novel that melds both ancient and modern times with wisdom. There is satire, there is allegory, digression and illustration, philosophical dialogue and theater. For as much as this novel is a mixture of so many different elements, Choi’s Bed demonstrates exactly how wide the range of those elements is. 

Author's Profile

Choi Suchol was born in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, in 1958. He completed a BA and MA in French Language and Literature at Seoul National University. He made his debut in 1981 when his short story “Blind Spot” won the Chosun Ilbo New Writer’s Contest. He is the author of several short story collections including A Castle in the AirMontage; and Short Nap by the Roadside, and the novels including In the Stomach of a WhaleAn Anarchist’s LoveCicadaPest; and Bed. He is also the recipient of the Yun Dong-ju Literary Award and Yi Sang Literary Award. Currently, he is a professor of creative writing at Hanshin University.