Exposing the Fiction of Reality: A Contrived World by Jung Young Moon

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.14 Winter 2011
  • byCho Yeon-jung
A Contrived World

A Contrived World is a record of the author Jung Young Moon’s stay in San Francisco. It’s a peculiar kind of record, for as the author has revealed: “It’s a story of not seeing things as they look, not hearing things as they sound, not feeling things as they feel and not accepting experiences for what they are.” The content of the novel consists largely of a stream of thoughts the author has about passing scenes and characters. It’s diff icult to regard the setting, San Francisco, as offering the necessary driving force for his writing. The author claims he intended to call the novel My Thoughts on Fun, and as he has pithily stated, it was written with “an unceasing desire for play.” What kind of desire is it that Jung was pursuing?

A novel is a fictitious world created through words. If the fictional world of the novel always resembles reality, writing a novel is itself the work of making “some artificial world.” However, if reality itself is already only a great fabrication, then what is a novel? If we follow the author’s counsel and read the work as a story of “not accepting experiences for what they are,”it is clear that A Contrived World, a lump of ideas lacking visible order or structure, is not noteworthy for creating a fictitious world apart from reality, but for recognizing that reality itself is artificial. We can read the novel as the author’s desire to expose the artificial character of reality within a space created by indifferent language. “By writing a novel, I was taking revenge on novels,” he writes, but it seems the object of his revenge was not only mimetic novels. To be precise, he was taking aim at the artificiality of reality, which other novels so scrupulously try to render. In Jung’s work, the unconscious world of the novel dreams of taking revenge on our artificial world. 

Author's Profile

Jung Young Moon graduated from Seoul National University with a degree in psychology. He made his literary debut in 1996 with the novel A Man Who Barely Exists. Among his works, Vaseline Buddha, A Most Ambiguous Sunday and Other Stories, A Chain of Dark Tales, and A Contrived World have appeared in English. He has won the Dongsuh Literary Award, the HMS (Hahn Moo-Sook) Literary Award, the Dongin Literary Award, and the Daesan Literary Award. He has participated in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program in 2005. Jung is also an accomplished translator who has translated more than fifty books from English into Korean, including works by John Fowles, Raymond Carver, and Germaine Greer.