A Taste of that Literary Feeling!: The History of the Hamburger that Was Nothing to Anyone by Jo Hyeon

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.14 Winter 2011
  • byKang Yu-jung
The History of the Hamburger that Was Nothing to Anyone

When we come into contact with literature, the orbit of our lives tilts by about five degrees. Summers do not feel like the summers before and the winter cold is somehow different as well. In this way, literature alters lives. Sometimes it might even seem as though not having encountered certain works would have been better. Just as the sharp memory of a first kiss can leave one with an aching heart for the rest of one’s life, there are some changes that simply do not fade.

Jo Hyeon introduced genre-specific ways of writing into our literature and rearranged the boundless sea of information to write a new narrative. That is why Jo’s work is bound up with both fact and fiction. One of the most interesting parts of reading Jo Hyeon’s work is asking oneself: How much is fact? What is information? Where does the fiction begin?

The greatest reason that Jo serves as a breath of fresh air is that he sets the attainment of sympathy as his goal. By setting this feeling as his final goal, Jo reaffirms his own humility to readers. If readers do not experience empathy, then literature is nothing. If Jo’s work can become a special language—even to only one person—that is exactly what literature is, and the kind of reader that Jo’s work calls for is exactly that kind of reader.

Jo’s first novel serves as a proposal of sorts to literature itself, and of all the sorts I have read it would seem as though Jo’s writing is one of the most romantic confessions of love. That said, it is not his writing in itself that serves as the drive behind his means of captivation, but rather what is interesting is the way in which his writing calls forth empathy. If nothing else, Jo Hyeon is a writer who knows how to make that empathetic confession to readers.