Redefining the Novel: Handmade Fiction by Park Hyoung Su

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.15 Spring 2012
  • byPark Sungchang
Handmade Fiction

The novel as a modern invention is what many young Korean writers are pondering as they attempt to redefine the landscape of modern Korean literature. Out of these writers, Park Hyoung Su stands out for the perception, intelligence, and playful imagination so evident in his work. As can be seen in one of the stories in this collection, “Midnight Fiction,” midnight is an important word and time of day for this writer.

Midnight is when the old day ends and the new day begins. Or, in the author’s words, “Midnight is when people have just fallen into a light sleep, dreaming fitful dreams, or are awake and grumbling because they cannot fall asleep.” The author applies this image of midnight to his reflections on the novel as a modern invention: he either travels back in time to explore the possibilities of the novel from the pre-modern viewpoint in the beginning or meditates on future novels in the post-modern era.

Much in the manner of Borges’ Ficcinones, in which the Argentine author writes a kind of metafiction ruminating on the meaning of fiction, Park questions what modern-day Korean fiction means and what function it serves. He is not afraid to take all kinds of narrative risks to explore the potential of the pre- novel or post- modern novel. What he has created by mixing and rearranging the diverse discourses of humor, philosophy, history of literature, science fiction, psychoanalysis, science, and essays is a hybrid work of fiction that defies categorization.

The modern novel has run its course in a postmodern world and now waits to be reborn. Park’s work, more than anything, aspires to shake the very roots of the novel as narrative. This calls for a new and unique arrangement of “handmade” symbols that departs from the system of traditional symbols that have been built up. That is why Park’s latest collection is called Handmade Fiction. What’s left for readers is to watch the writer’s struggles to write out by hand the future of the novel that awaits them from beyond midnight.