Soothing Self-Reflection: Stinging Snowflake by Lee Dong-ha

  • onOctober 26, 2014
  • Vol.19 Spring 2013
  • byLee Soong-won
Stinging Snowflake

Five out of 10 stories in Stinging Snowflake focus on remembering the past. The other five stories are based on what is happening in a rural village but also include narrative descriptions about the past. Through this descriptive method of retrospection, the author attempts to confirm one’s roots and explore changes in identity. His main characters examine where their lives began by talking about facts that have hardly changed, and expose in detail scars from childhood, being hurt and feeling lost as a young adult, lethargy in middle age, and the stability that follows.

Whether it is a story based on memories or the present, all the stories focus on self-reflection. The author is interested in how the characters have lived their lives so far, how they have felt, and what understanding they have achieved. Through such self-reflection and awakening, a poet aims to find a pure truth that is secretly hidden deep inside people’s heart. The author calls this a “stinging snowflake.”

A distinctive literary feature is the logic and humor of his sentences. The exacting sentences adhere to the correct use of subject-predicate relationships and do not misplace even a single adverb, demonstrating that these stories are the fruit of long contemplation and practice. This is a feature that cannot come out of novels that observe manners and customs mostly out of interest.

A sense of humor plays a role in counterbalancing the sadness in various stories. Lee's works show a great deal of compassion, remorse, and self-reproach in life, and can be colored with a sentimental tone. However, the humor gradually enhances the refinement of the work. If you understand that life is made up of laughter, tears, happiness, and sadness, you will be able to understand the beauty of this technique. Self-reproach is sublimated into self-reflection when humor soothes the pains of life. 

Author's Profile

Lee Dong-ha made his literary debut in 1966 when his short story “The War and the Squirrel” won the Seoul Shinmun New Writer’s Contest. He is the author of short-story collections including The Valley after NightfallA Study on ViolenceSamhakdo; Before the DoorDoes the Lady Snail Know?Stinging Snowflake, and novels including Urban SwampHard Tongue; and Toy City. He is also the recipient of Korea Creative Literature Award and Hyundae Munhak Award.