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FICTION

Welcome to the Real World: Good-bye, Mazinger by Lee Seung-hyeon

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.14 Winter 2011
  • byPark Hyekyung
Good-bye, Mazinger
2011
287pp.

Lee Seung-hyeon is a writer new to the literary scene as of 2011 and Good-bye, Mazinger is his first novel. Aside from going to school and performing his public service in the military, Lee spent much of his time in a factory, and to add to his interesting resume is his career as a mixed martial arts fighter. This is a book that deals directly with his experience of having worked in a factory.

Good-bye , Mazinger is the main character’s coming-of-age story, moving from the main character’s adolescence to adulthood and telling the tale of the various troubles he faced in that process. For the main character in his third year of high school, school seems like a prison where senseless violence is enacted against him, and he is given the nickname “Mazinger” (after the Japanese manga series). For this character, grown-ups are not the only figures who treat the Mazingers of the world unfairly, but he fears that perhaps everyone in the world might become the same type of adult. This protagonist, wanting so badly to escape from his school environment, takes a job at a factory before even finishing school. The factory is of course a dreary place where there’s an ever-present danger of having one’s hand cut off.

The author, Lee, however, takes what could have been a depressing, cynical narrator’s tale and writes it with great humor. This protagonist—when whipped by his teachers, when exchanging blows with his co-workers, or when describing the various characters he meets in the factory—does not let the otherwise decrepit situation get him down and, instead, his descriptions of these events breathe fresh air into the novel. As the story becomes entangled in the mysterious suicide of the main character’s former manager, Mr. Kang, the main character bids a heartfelt adieu to the “small, youthful days of his wandering life,” and departs into the greater world. The death of Mr. Kang and the wounds left behind serve as an opportunity to realize the narrator’s connection to the rest of the world.