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FICTION

Dreaming for the Dreamless: A Book No One Reads by Kim Miwol

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.15 Spring 2012
  • byJung Yeo-ul
A Book No One Reads
2011
260pp.

Korea used to be a country where 80 percent of the population constituted the poor and the remaining 20 percent, the rich. The division is now 90 to 10. In other words, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing much wider, and the biggest victims of the increasingly polarized society are youth in their teens and 20s. When asked “What is your dream?” they answer that they want to become a teacher, policeman, or civil servant. They pick these occupations because they offer job security, not because they are their dream jobs. What could their lives be like in a society that does not inspire them to pursue their dreams but makes them seek jobs where they will not be laid off? Kim Miwol is one of the young contemporary novelists who draws a detailed, forlorn portrait of today’s youth.

Her recently published collection of short stories, A Book No One Reads, tells stories of people who have to question whether or not they are allowed to dream. They include a high school co-ed, who doesn’t dare think of going to college because her poor family cannot afford the exorbitant tuition, and a once aspiring poet, who has since abandoned his dream despite his talent, and now works an editor at a publishing company. They symbolize a generation that has never experienced even a slight sense of fulfillment in taking a step toward realizing their dreams; instead, they are always preparing to apply for jobs. When asked about their dreams, they reply, “I haven’t the faintest idea.” The high school co-ed who gave up college thinks: if Sleeping Beauty awakened now from her slumber of a hundred years, she might just as well want to go back to sleep.

The characters in A Book No One Reads, however, do not simply succumb to despondency or despair. They love life more than anything, and they make great efforts not to hurt others. Kim’s affectionate writing zooms in on the unexpected loveliness shown by these characters who are lonely and abandoned like a book no one reads, and delineates a world that is made more beautiful by them.