A Novel of Youth Rewritten: Route 7 Revisited by Kim Yeonsu

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.12 Summer 2011
  • byCho Yeon-jung
Route 7 Revisited

Kim Yeonsu, who has displayed an almost completely mature writer’s sensibility since I Am a Ghost Writer was published in 2005, has after 13 years rewritten Route 7, his early novel written in 1997. When one says there is a cluster of Kim’s stories that deals with his youth, and to be precise, that the stories are elegiac in their treatment of Korean society circa 1991, it is no exaggeration to say that the novel Route 7 started off the trend.

Route 7 is fixed in our minds as a “process novel” unfolding in fragmented form, or as the story of characters in their mid to late 20s who feel overwhelmed by life, and cannot free themselves of feelings of emptiness and loss. A note scribbled on a Beatles record is at its core: “May 1991, after coming out with Jae-hyeon to the protests at Cheongye Stream, Seo-yeon.” Route 7 has also come to be read as proof of the actual Kim Yeonsu at that time, 13 years ago, when he was 27.

In Route 7 Revisited, what has changed? The characters appear just as they did 13 years prior: the narrator is sick of life; Sehee has been lonely since birth, and Jae-hyeon wanders around, unable to forget Seo-yeon, his first love. The trip along Route 7 is also unaltered, set up as the occasion for Jae-hyeon and the narrator to meet. The new ending, in which the first-person narrator and the real writer Kim Yeonsu overlap, is like a gift that fills the reader with warmth. One finds the most symbolic instance of change in the note that Seo-yeon writes on the LP. In the 2010 version, Route 7 Revisited, Seo-yeon leaves Jae-hyeon this message: “To a discovery greater than that of Columbus, May 1991…J&S.” This way, in the rewritten novel, the author attempts by all possible means to erase historical context from the time-space of “1991.” In Route 7 Revisited, rather than impressing us with an understanding of the early 1990s as the time he attended university, Kim highlights the universal pathless-ness of youth.

What does it mean for him to revise a story from his youth after he has matured? We should perhaps understand this as an act the author must perform now because in the near future he will no longer remember those days with passion. As Kim offers the sophisticated youth novel Route 7 Revisited to his readers, does it mean he is taking Route 7, the vivid record of his youth, for himself? 

Author's Profile

Kim Yeonsu is a novelist. Kim debuted in 1993 by publishing a poem in Writer’s World. He published the novels Walking While Pointing to the MaskGoodbye Mr. Yi Sang, Route 7The Night Is Singing, and Wonderboy and the short story collections I Am a Ghost WriterTwenty, and World's End Girlfriend. Kim has received a number of literary awards, including the Daesan Literary Award and Yi Sang Literary Award.