Self-preservation at Any Cost: Before and After the Squall by Kim Wonwoo

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.12 Summer 2011
  • byChoi Jaebong
Before and After the Squall

Kim Wonwoo’s novel can be regarded as a novel of criticism. His novel deals with present day civil society from beginning to end. While the novel remains faithful to the rules of realism that depict social conditions and reproduces social mores, the “objective observer” in a passive sense is far removed from the writer and narrator he stands for. He does not hesitate to expose the implicit meaning of a situation and accuse the falsity of certain people. Far from being hesitant, Kim often strays from the plot to give advice or reprimand in his novels.

His new novel Before and After the Squall is a compilation of the title work that is as long as a novel, and two medium-length novellas “The World of A Traveler” and “Korean Grave Stonework Seller in China.” In the title work, retired professor Im recalls in his e-mail sent to a colleague, Han, how he “survived his trouble with women and the national crisis and corruption at the university” based on thorough self-analysis and self-criticism. Set in 1980, this reminiscence talks about the national crisis and troubles at the university but at its core is the “sexual passion” that he, a married man, shared with an unmarried female colleague. Professor Im recollects his past with a view so critical that it appears to be unrelentingly callous throughout the novel, but at the same time, he continues to maintain the following claim: “But on the other hand, it was undoubtedly at the core of one’s private life so I had the right to fight against and reject all types of interference, sanction and punishment from everyone (…), even parents, siblings or a wife.” It is impressive to see Kim Wonwoo, known as the king of negation and scorn who argues that a reasonable person is rare and a proper system is also hard to find, actively advocating one’s private life as the “minimum right to self-protection.”