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FICTION

Can You Love an Ugly Girl?: Pavane for a Dead Princess by Park Min-gyu

  • onOctober 20, 2014
  • Vol.6 Winter 2009
  • byLee Yeong-gyeong
Pavane for a Dead Princess
2009
420pp.

Park Min-gyu is an author renowned for bringing about changes in the literary landscape of Korea in the 2000s through his original imagination and unconventional sentences. His novels are fraught with unusual characters, such as Superman and Wonder Woman, and bizarre incidents, such as a table tennis match between an ostracized middle school kid and an alien, with the fate of the earth at stake. A deeper look into his novels, however, reveals the author’s sympathy and compassion for the weak and the marginalized in today’s society.

Pavane for the Deceased Princess is about an unlikely romance by Park, for it is a love story between a very ugly girl, dubbed “the ugliest girl of the century,” and a handsome guy. The novel poses the question, “Can you love an ugly girl?” a question that’s simple, yet difficult to answer.

The three protagonists have all been traumatized by outward appearances. The first person narrator, the male protagonist, was born to a handsome father and an ugly mother. His father, who was a third-rate actor, lived off his mother, then abandoned his family when he became famous.

Yohan, a mentor who connects the female protagonist with the narrator, has also been wounded in the past by the suicide of his beautiful mother, who lived as a mistress of a wealthy man. The female protagonist is so ugly that she can’t carry on a normal life in society. The narrator is reminded of his mother when he meets her at a department store where he works part-time. Little by little, the two grow close, and cautiously fall in love. But the girl’s wound is too deep for her to accept his love wholeheartedly, and she leaves him. With Yohan’s suicide attempt, the three go their separate ways.

A long time later, the narrator, who has become a writer, makes inquiries on the whereabouts of the girl and goes to see her in Germany. At the conclusion of the novel, the author has added a “writer’s cut,” presenting the readers with an open ending.

The author, who has always shown concern for the weak and the disadvantaged in capitalistic societies, focuses this time on those who are marginalized and victimized in a society of lookism. He conveys the message that if lookism is the illness from which this society is suffering, the way to treat this illness is through love.