Violence Begets Violence: My Hands Turned into Hooves by Park Bum Shin

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.13 Autumn 2011
  • byShim Jinkyung
My Hands Turned into Hooves

Park Bum Shin’s 39th novel, My Hands Turned into Hooves, is one that explores the violence of this world through “hooves.” In the words of the author himself, “This novel is an introspective work on how our society is one that has not escaped from the brutal, violent society of earlier days,” and is one in which he attempts to make philosophical inquiries into the ideas of violence and death that to this day secretly exist behind the façade of our capitalist civilization, packaged into concepts of “life” and “well being.” In this sense, Hooves is an extension of the critical perspective of Park’s last novel, Business, a critique of the heartless, business-style capitalism and our violent reality that have led to the destruction of human life as it was once known.

Within the novel, violence is expressed most bluntly and directly in the final scene, in which a hoof emerges from the narrator’s hand, representing an eruption of latent violence. In addition, the special forces commander from Myeonganjinsa, who had abused the narrator in the past like a “strangled dog,” as well as Yeorin, the one and only person the narrator had ever truly loved, are both mercilessly killed by the narrator, their blood sucked, and cannibalized. What is interesting about this is the way in which the narrator, at one time the victim of violence, is driven into an extreme situation and becomes a perpetrator of violence, doling out violence exponentially greater than that which he had experienced. As paradoxical as it may sound, one could also say that if the world is structured under a fixed, violent order, then the agent of violence exists as a victim of the world’s violence. Within this novel the narrator, once the object of extreme violence, becomes saturated with and then mechanically repeats the internalized violence of the world. Thus, through the metamorphosis of the narrator’s hand into a hoof, stained with the violence of the world, the results is a complete loss of the self. Of course, the narrator, in addition to the impossibility of escape from the world of violence, is infected by violence, giving birth to a zombie-like state in which the self is all but lost.