Impressed by Failure: Hidden Eve by Kim Ujine

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.13 Autumn 2011
  • byShin Hyoung-cheol
Hidden Eve

The majority of novels are ones that have met failure. However, the history of literature has been driven by failures that are actually meaningful, clear successes. What is important is to not allow certain “successful failures” to pass us by. Kim Ujine’s Hidden Eve is an impressive failure.

But how is it that one comes to use the word “failure?” Well, this is because the novel in question is one that is not written in our expected form, the narrative. A narrative is comprised of three elements: people, events, and place. These are exactly the elements Rene Wellek and Austin Warren outlined in their landmark classic, Theory of Literature (1949): characterization, plot, and setting.

It appears as though this work takes no interest in fulfilling these expectations in any customary form. The setting—in both terms of time and space—is obscure. Ironically, the more the writer attempts to flesh out the occupations of the characters, the impression of who they are becomes only more nebulous. Meetings and separations, fires, and fleeing all take place; however, somehow all these events seem but a portent to something else, giving the reader a feeling that, “Surely something is about to really happen.”

On the other hand, there is something special that this novel has. Some would put it as simply as to say the writing is “poetic,” but to take from the aesthetic critique point of view of philosopher Gilles Deleuze, one might say that this work is one that creates affect.

For instance, literary scholar Claire Colebrook notes the fear and ennui of Emily Dickinson and Harold Pinter, respectively, as magnificent works of affect. Similarly, the affect given by the children of Kim’s novel—their solitudes, affections, anxieties—are both lightly and subtly done, even to the point of objectification. Really, the hero of this novel is the affect that is it creates. Kim has done this with poetic rhythm and images that exhibit a depth of description that delves deep below the surface. Hidden Eve represents not a customary path to success, but rather a personal path of failure. That said, one can only encourage Kim Ujine with the famed line from Samuel Beckett: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”