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Simple Fare Full of Love: Noodles by Kim Soom

  • onOctober 27, 2014
  • Vol.23 Spring 2014
  • byChong Won Sik
Noodles
2014
372pp.

Novelist Kim Soom, who won last year's Daesan Literary Award, as well as the 2012 Hyundae Literary Award, has released her fourth book, a short story collection titled, Noodles. The collection contains nine stories, including the title piece, “Noodles” and “One Evening with Kyung-sook,” which won the Hyundae Literary Award.

While Kim’s writing is known for its realistic portrayal of her characters’ inner turmoil under intense external pressure, she also includes elements of fantasy in her narratives. This collection notably focuses more on family relations while showcasing her unique style.

“Noodles” stands out for the first-person narration by a female protagonist who tells the story of her stepmother who has been diagnosed with cancer. The story opens with the protagonist visiting her stepmother to make some noodles. The narrative unfolds as a monologue directed at the stepmother:

 

As I softly sprinkle some flour on the dough and begin flattening it with a rolling pin, I feel like I am only getting older and older, just like you. After your icy husband passed away and all of your stepkids left home...how much time have you spent kneading noodle dough at home in solitude?

 

The first dish that the stepmother made for her stepdaughter was noodles. The protagonist, a callow young woman at the time, felt that homemade noodles were excessively simple fare, but as she grows wiser with age, she eventually comes to understand the similarities between her stepmother's humble life and her simple noodle dishes. The process of making and kneading dough engenders the protagonist's compassion for and understanding of her stepmother's suffering. The stepdaughter’s monologue- style narration, reminiscent of novelist Shin Kyung-sook's The Place Where the Harmonium Was illustrates Kim Soom's aesthetic virtuosity. 

Author's Profile

Kim Soom has published thirteen novels, most recently When Has a Soldier Wanted to Be an Angel? (2018) and Sublime is Looking Inward (2018), the third and fourth novels in her Comfort Women series, and six short story collections. She has received the Yi Sang Literary Award, Hyundae Literary Award, Daesan Literary Award, Heo Gyun Literary Award, and the Tong-ni Literature Prize. One Left (2016), the first novel in her Comfort Woman series, was translated and published in Japan in 2018. Her story "Divorce" is out from Strangers Press, UK as part of their Yeoyu Korean Literature series (2019)