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FICTION

Truth Is Subjective: Stranger than Paradise by Lee Jangwook

  • onOctober 27, 2014
  • Vol.23 Spring 2014
  • byKim Young-burn
Stranger than Paradise
2013
276pp.

The novel Stranger than Paradise offers a unique narrative structure with each character’s point of view accessible to the reader. The book reads like a road trip movie telling the story of two men and a woman traveling in a car.

Kim and Choi are the two male characters and Jeong is Kim’s wife. They all attended the same university and are on their way to attend the funeral of their mutual female friend, “A,” who was a fellow member of the film club during their college days. While they are traveling to the small, provincial town for her funeral, each of them reminisces about A, reflecting on things that had happened between them. All three had once loved A, but each has a bitter memory of their love not coming to fruition. They all think they know A, yet when they share their stories about her, their recollections vary. In fact, even their views on the events that take place during their trip are completely different.

Stranger than Paradise does not provide a clear-cut picture. Author Lee Jangwook constructed the narrative by telling it from the perspective of each character: first Kim, then Choi, and finally Jeong. The strange questions that arise from each person’s viewpoint overlap as their stories unravel. Readers will have a hard time figuring out whose recollection comes closest to the truth. In actuality, it does not matter whether or not each individual’s story is correct since every recollection and testimony has, in its own way, a kernel of truth.

There is a twist at the end of the novel, which overrides all the testimonies: there was a camera observing them the whole time. Like the viewfinder of a camera suspended overhead by a crane, it completely alters the perspective of the three characters.