Realistic Tales of Fantasy: The Elephants Have Come by Kim Ih-eun

  • onOctober 20, 2014
  • Vol.5 Autumn 2009
  • byJung Yeo-ul
The Elephants Have Come

Kim Ih-eun's The Elephants Have Come is a unique novel that combines text and photos. The book excites the reader's imagination much like a fantasy novel. In “The Tale of a Woman with Growing Breasts,” a woman’s breasts grow every time she cures others by absorbing their injuries into her own body. Also, in “An Alien on the Run,” mask storeowner belatedly realizes that he has always been wearing an invisible mask. In the title story, “The Elephants Have Come,” elephants break out of the city’s many amusement parks en masse. To stop the fleeing elephants, a gigantic fence is put up around the entire city. Nonetheless, no matter how sturdy the fence, it seems unlikely that the elephants can be captured. Are such stories possible only in fantasy?

Kim Ih-eun's fiction creates a time of fantasy, but none of it is unbelievable. Her descriptions of fantasy are so realistic that after finishing her novel one feels as if the stories are actually happening somewhere. Her stories seem to whisper into the readers’ ears, “This is not an absurd idea. Think about it. Aren't we lonely, fearful, and desperate enough to imagine something this sad? We grow distant from the truth of our bodies by hiding our wounds and pain out of shame. By refusing to admit honestly that ‘we’re hurting,’ aren’t we depriving ourselves of a chance to heal?”

The healing she gives to the reader is not like sudden surgery or medication, but rather resembles a slow dietary treatment or meditation regimen. Although this type of healing is protracted and takes place on a subconscious level, its effects are sustained: “This is much more powerful than anything you have experienced. It will heal all of your wounds from the past, as well as the lingering pain etched all over your body.” Instead of working on some kind of cure-all remedy, don't we need the courage to face our pain? Don't we need to tune our ears to be sensitive enough to discover the language of the escaped elephants in their wails? For they too, like us, are precious creatures that feel pain, love, and melancholy.