The Last Novel: The Age of Myth by Yi Chong-Jun

  • onOctober 20, 2014
  • Vol.3 Spring 2009
  • byLee Seungwon
The Age of Myth

On July 31, 2008, a major figure in the Korean literary world passed away. His name was Yi Chong-Jun, the author of This Paradise of Yours, which has been published into English and Spanish. Throughout his life, he worked not only to embody the essential nature of human beings living in the midst of absurdities and irrational circumstances of the real world, but also, to sublimate the traditions of Korea in an aesthetic manner. The Age of Myths is his last fulllength novel, and an unfinished work. In the novel, “the age of myths” refers to the period between 1910 and 1930 when Joseon was under colonization. The novel begins with the appearance of a mysterious woman called Jaduri. Through the strange birth and growth of Taesan, Jaduri’s son whose father is unknown, the novel reconstructs the history of colonial Joseon and the lives of ordinary people through mythological imagination. In this way, the novel reflects the history of an individual, as well as the history of the collective whole. By myth, however, the author does not mean simply a mirror reflecting history, or a fair and just world transcending reality and history. Neither does he mean an age of myths in which an Apollonian order and a Dionysian chaos coexist, as they do in the myths of the West. To Yi Chong-Jun, the age of myths is a symbolic space in the everyday world, in which the hardships of an individual get tangled up in the boundary between reality and history. Furthermore, myths, as the author has stated, are “a dimension of the soul in which resides inherent sentimentalities, in the form of genetic residues of reality and history.” In that sense, The Age of Myths is a sort of soul-cleansing ritual, for the solace of those living in modern times who had to live as historic beings. 

Author's Profile

Yi Chong-Jun (1939–2008) produced seventeen novels, 155 short stories, and one play over the course of his career. His notable works include Your Paradise, Seopyeonje, and “The Wounded.” Nine of his works were cinematized, including Secret Sunshine, which was based on his story “The Abject.” He received the Dongin Literary Award, Yi Sang Literary Award, Lee San Literature Prize, and the Daesan Literary Award. He was also posthumously awarded the Geumgwan Order of Cultural Merit. His works have been translated into English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese.