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FICTION

Adolescence Found: Comfort the Young by Eun Heekyung

  • onApril 20, 2015
  • Vol.27 Spring 2015
  • byDu XiaoYe
安慰少年 (Comfort the Young)
Tr. Xu Lihong
2014
396pp.

All of us are vagabond juveniles in this unpredictable universe, so does anyone understand the sensitive mind of a teenager?

Comfort the Young tells us a story about a lonely teenager who gradually becomes mature by experiencing familial affection, love, and friendship. The well-known Korean author, Eun Heekyung, transforms herself into the main character in this novel, a lonely boy, in order to infiltrate the inner worlds of young boys and girls. Through an elaborate but well-connected sequence of events, the author poses a soft challenge to the traditional sense of narrative order, forcing readers to confront, not only in content, but also in narrative form, universal anxieties and insecurities of adolescence.

Yan Yu is a gentle frail-looking boy from a single parent family. His divorced mother is a fashion columnist with a strong will and a younger boyfriend. This kind of family garners a lot of attention from society, making Yan Yu precociously sensitive and better mannered than others of his age. In high school, he gets to know a boy called Tai Zhu, who has just returned from overseas. Although he possesses a strong personality, it turns out he is just as lonely as Yan Yu. Also, he has an unforgettable first love with a girl named Li Caiying. Music is another of Yan’s companions. Alongside a personal soundtrack of his favorite tunes, Yan runs in his youthfulness, competing with time itself.

There is an exclusive tiny little world inside everyone’s mind, which, in the process of maturity, inevitably collides with the outside world. Although reality is cruel, Eun’s characters long to be treated tenderly and to feel comforted. The loss of youth, growing pains, the general confusion of love and the pressures of society—all of these factors, throughout all times and in all places, will be universally suffered by every single young person. This novel will remind us of those warm but bitter memories.

Eun Heekyung has earned her reputation as a popular South Korean author in China. Comfort the Young was included in the Korean youth novel series called “Mujin•Lei” (along with her novel What Are You Doing, Fox?, which also takes personal growth as its theme) after it had been published in China in 2014.

Eun always maintains a sharp social awareness of those who criticize common sense and ordinary ideology, from the view of women’s lives proffered by feminism to young people’s offbeat life philosophy.

Comfort the Young is an exemplary South Korean novel, the details of which help readers from different countries to know this country better. On the other hand, it is a transnational work in which everybody who has gone through adolescence will recognize their own reflection. It helps us to experience young people’s emotions once again and probably prevents us from breaking their hearts. 

 

by Du Xiaoye
Editor, Flower City Publishing House

Author's Profile

Eun Heekyung has won several literary awards such as the Munhakdongne Novel Award, the Yi Sang Literary Award, and the Dongin Literary Award. The French edition of My Wife’s Boxes (Les Boîtes de ma femme) was published by Zulma. Her works have appeared in German, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese. She also participated in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.