The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: The Last Autumn Love and Other Short Stories by Oh Jung-Hee
- onNovember 9, 2014
- Vol.7 Spring 2010
- byEdyta Matejko-Paszkowska
- The Last Autumn Love and Other Short Stories
Tr. Marzena Stefanska 2009
Oh Jung-Hee is one of the most celebrated and outstanding Korean authors. Her short stories published in Poland under the title The Last Autumn Love and Other Short Stories are consistently rich, provocative, powerful, and carefully crafted.
Endowed with extraordinary talent, Oh seems to know more about the female psyche than other writers. Heroines of her stories are usually women between 30 and 40 who, limited by their role as housewives, feel the emptiness and futility of their lives.
Each of these characters live in a cycle of daily routines and unfulfilled dreams. Lack of complete freedom in their lives drive them to apathy and make them unable to express their feelings, except to make futile gestures of mutiny. The subjects that Oh explores are not easy; they provoke and make the readers reflect.
The Bird, another book by Oh, which will be published in Poland in spring, is an emotional tale of a brother and sister, abandoned as children, struggling to make something out of their young lives. This novel displays differences from the majority of her other stories as it does not focus on the feminine values she is so often associated with, but offers insight into her intense writing style. This is the second of Oh’s books translated from Korean by Marzena Stefanska. A famous journalist once said about Oh Jung-Hee’s writing: “Delicate, understand writing that finds the extraordinary in the ordinary.” And this is Oh Jung-Hee—already loved by Polish readers.
* Edyta Matejko-Paszkowska is editor of Kwiaty Orientu. Marzena Stefanska translated The Last Autumn Love and Other Short Stories into Polish.
Reading Oh Junghee’s fiction is like seeing the colors and patterns of life and the universe engraved on a bronze mirror. For some, it has the ghastly beauty of passing through a swamp of anxiety and horror. For others, it is like looking into the existential abyss of lost souls who were born without any place to call home. The world order has become naturalized for us through routine and structure, and so we are startled by Oh’s perspicacity, breaking it apart and rendering it unfamiliar. In order to resurrect the inner spirit on a cosmic dimension, Oh envisions opening up what seems closed, and we share in this vision. We are awed by the mysterious alchemy the writer uses to kindle a new literary world, depicting the full spectrum of life and the outer universe in the abyss, in that scene of tension and disillusionment in the grotto of death where all meaning is extinguished. Her novels show a female perspective in a new light, and subversively open up new horizons for existential reflection. It is also through Oh that a new kind of narration and a new literary style can be established in Korean fiction.