In Search of Normality: Lauf, Vater, lauf by Kim Ae-ran

  • onNovember 16, 2014
  • Vol.25 Autumn 2014
  • byJürgen Stalph
Lauf, Vater, lauf
Tr. Park Inwon

Fathers play an important role in these nine stories. One of them runs away from his family without a word the day before his daughter is born. Another one abandons his child in an amusement park. A third one, after years of absence, suddenly knocks on the door of his grown-up daughter and settles in with her, just to nonstop watch TV. A forth one promises his son a pogo stick if he shows his pee-pee. A fifth one treats his little son to an expensive meal of pufferfish, only to tell him afterwards that he will have to stay awake through the night to not be killed by the poison of the fish.

All these fathers seem to be cruel, but more than that they are lost and forlorn, far more than their offspring who mostly accept their fathers (and mothers) the way they are, showing understanding, and even care. Still, in pursuing their own lives, they constantly keep looking for what they were deprived of: normality.

In depicting her characters’ search for normality and love, Kim Ae-ran is at her best—highly imaginative, funny, and, at times, touchingly tender. One fine example is the pogo stick boy who hopes to hop ad astra to get a better view on the world and his own emotions. Another one is the pufferfish kid in “Feuerwerksspiele am Strand” (Fireworks on the beach) who makes his father cut his hair and tell him never-ending stories of how he, the boy, came into life. Stories as comical and bizarre as full of truth. Reading them is a sheer pleasure, due not least to the easy-flowing, sensitive translation by Park Inwon.

Lauf, Vater, lauf is the first book by Kim Ae-ran translated into German. We eagerly look for more to come.  


by Jürgen Stalph
Lexicographer, Free University of Berlin

Author's Profile

Kim Ae-ran has authored four short story collections, most recently Summer Outside (2017), and one essay collection, A Good Name to Forget (2019). Her first novel, My Palpitating Life (2011), was adapted into the movie My Brilliant Life (2014). Kim received the 2014 Prix de Linapercu award for the story “I Go to the Convenience Store.” Her debut work “No Knocking in This House,” excerpted here, won the 2003 Daesan Literary Award.