Dreams of the Downtrodden: Tragicomic Miss Teletubby by Kang Young-sook

  • onOctober 27, 2014
  • Vol.22 Winter 2013
  • byKang Dongho
Tragicomic Miss Teletubby

Tragicomic Miss Teletubby is Kang Young-sook’s seventh published book and third novel; it is another excellent example of the author’s hardboiled point of view of the anxiety present in everyday city life. In this work Kang depicts the romance of a man named Dong-seok, manager of the Korean branch of a multinational electronics company, and a 16-year-old girl named Hana, who carries a Teletubby doll everywhere. These two are not an ordinary couple, however, but locked in a material relationship based on money that is doomed to fail from the beginning. While their relationship may look like a destructive coupling of the upper and lower classes of the urban society they live in, there is too much to it to be dismissed as an unethical, antisocial crime.

On the surface level Dong-seok and Hana are unquestionably engaged in underage prostitution, but between the two of them they create a private space that is invisible from the viewpoint of society. Needless to say, this relationship is not a sustainable one. It can only end in disaster, but rather than investigate the knotty ethics of this relationship the author chooses to focus on Hana’s coping mechanism, namely her desire to write.

As the story traces Hana’s footsteps, it is revealed that writing helps her bear the crushing loneliness and deprivation in her life. She desires to imagine a world beyond her reality. Of course, the desire to write does not solve the problems of reality in one swoop. It does, however, hold a mirror up to the dehumanization of city living that makes up our everyday life, and forces us to reflect on the downtrodden dreams of those brutally excluded from the establishment.

Is it possible to imagine a different kind of future for mankind under this system of capitalism that shows no sign of change? Kang Young-sook’s novel dreams of a different kind of life beyond this reality, a vision driven by the celebration of female solidarity and a belief in the power of writing to connect and comfort. 



Author's Profile

Kang Young-sook (b. 1967) is the author of three novels, Rina (2006), The Writing Club (2010), and Sad and Delightful Teletubby Girl (2013), and five short story collections, including Shaken (2002) and Gray Literature (2016). Rina was published in English by Dalkey Archive Press in 2015 and The Writing Club in Japanese by Gendaikikakushitsu in 2017. Kang participated in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program in 2009 and the Daesan-Berkeley Writer-in-Residence Program in 2014.