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FICTION

Wrestling the Beast Called Tedium: There Goes Bukowski by Han Jaeho

  • onOctober 20, 2014
  • Vol.4 Summer 2009
  • byJung Yeo-ul
There Goes Bukowski
2009
229pp.

Han Jaeho’s There Goes Bukowski is a portrait of Korean society ailing from young adult unemployment. The protagonist of the story graduates from college to face a society that does not have a place for him except among those seeking work. For many years after graduation, he resides near his college to continue his fruitless job search. The endless rejections progressively turn him into a man of no hope, no desires, and certainly no joy. His day consists of surfing the net, looking for employment ads, and mailing résumés. One day, after spending the night with a woman he has just met, he hears about Bukowski for the first time at a restaurant:

 

"What do you mean he goes out only on rainy days?'

I listened for the answer, taking a spoonful of rice and steamed egg to my mouth. Frankly, going out only on rainy days—

"It’s not that special. Who cares?"

Seems like it’s nothing, but then,

"What, he’s not interested in money?"

Nevertheless, it seemed odd that he’d go as far as closing his store.

It appeared no one knew where he was going, either.

Rainy days, rainy days…

 

His curiosity is stirred by this Bukowski person who is known to suddenly close shop and head out somewhere every time it rains. From that day onward, the protagonist starts to stalk Bukowski. He does not know why he is stalking Bukowski, but he cannot shake off the curiosity. A succession of tedious, meaningless events ensues as he continues to follow Bukowski. Finding it unbearable to continue his empty routine as an unemployed young man, he trails Bukowski all over Seoul. Over the course of his excursions, his curiosity about Bukowski is slowly replaced by his rediscovery of Seoul, the city he once found tedious and dull. He also finds out that he is not the only one stalking Bukowski.

One day, he notices a black umbrella following him around. He stalks Bukowski, and the black umbrella stalks him. Thus, three umbrellas in a row wander around Seoul every time it rains. What begins as an amusing pastime turns into yet another routine with no beginning or end. Has the existence of the black umbrella turned the protagonist into another Bukowski? In a very unique narrative voice, There Goes Bukowski depicts a young man’s exertions to break the neverending circle of ennui.