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FICTION

Dreams of a Great and Ordinary Revolution: The Double Life of Cat by Kim Yeonkyung

  • onOctober 20, 2014
  • Vol.7 Spring 2010
  • byLee Kyungjae
The Double Life of Cat
2009
281pp.

Do you still believe in an ideological revolution out of the pages of history? In Seoul in the year 2000, a group of people unite to say an empathetic “Yes” to that very question. They are the members of “ptre” (Proletariat Revolution), an Internet chat room. Kwon Min-woo, taking time off from school, is the son of a professor at a university hospital; Choi Ji-wook, is the chat room moderator; Ttalki is a six-year-old girl who acts as Ji-wook’s messenger; Kim Cheol-su is a chronic, failed testtaker of the civil service exams, currently unemployed; and 40-something Manager Kang works at a small computer company.

These are the protagonists of Kim Yeonkyung’s The Double Life of Cat, a novel that examines the possible reenactment of the Russian Revolution of November 1917 and its historical and political ramifications.

The protagonists, however, ironically prove themselves to be far removed from the integrity of a revolution. Ji-wook plots revenge against his father, Dr. Kwon Yool, who abandoned him and his mother, but it turns out that Dr. Kwon is not his father. Cheol-su, who clung to a modicum of integrity, has an affair with a married woman and later becomes the successful owner of a private academy specializing in writing. Min-woo appears to pursue a different path than his father but ends up going to law school and joining the bourgeoisie. Manager Kang, likewise, is busy managing his own survival. At the end of the day, these people had no reason to fight, no cause to mourn, no mask to wear, and no integrity to swallow.

The characters in this book show how we live in an era of snobbery and brutal competition where wealth and success are ultimately the only values that count. In the end, as in Dr. Kwon’s last words asking for “water,” only survival remains. To them, the preservation and management of life are the only issues that matter. It may seem as if The Double Life of Cat has a happy ending, with all ptre members finding their places in the world. The question this work asks of the reader, however, is whether the happiness they have found is true happiness.