Stream of Consciousness in a World of Id: Walk to the Strange Time by Yi In-seong

  • onJuly 16, 2015
  • Vol.28 Summer 2015
  • byLiu Xiaomin
Tr. Choi Seong-yong

As Yi In-seong’s first novel using stream of consciousness, Walk to the Strange Time is a good representation of the fast development of this storytelling device in Korean novels. Yi’s skillful use of the different techniques that distinguish this strategy, including monologue and free association, helps to unfold the authentic experience of a real man, and allows us to see the ever-changing world of Yi’s Id.

In this novel, you will not see any of the obvious markers of plot or characterization as seen in the traditional novel form. Indeed, what makes this novel marvelous is that the author deliberately breaks the continuum of events and the limits of time and space. He focuses on the vibration of the inner world. Fragmentary scenes refer to what the narrator saw and felt upon arriving at the imaginary city of Myth. At first sight, the standstill landscape of the city represents the narrator’s tranquility and calm in accepting whatever he sees.

Subsequently, after ensuing moments of dizziness, the narrator gains a fresh new understanding of everything, as shown by the frequent change of visual location from the narrator’s perspective, from the Pine Slope Hotel to the Orphanage, from the Tent Restaurant to the bus station and the seashore. The author’s emotions change as well, from peaceful satisfaction to fear, to confusion, to struggle: “as if one corner of my sensation is collapsing…” Although there is too much transposition and no sequential logic or connection between the scenes, these seemingly broken parts of the novel comprise an integral whole. Real objects trigger changes in the narrator’s inner world, causing him to project images from his subconscious onto the real world, which in turn, reflects the painful hesitation he is suffering based on his abnormal understanding of the world we are living in. The book is full of monologues that seem to assimilate the narrator’s emotions into each line of the novel. The narrator and the words and sentences become one and the same. This is what stream of consciousness is all about and what makes Walk to the Strange Time a perfect example of this modern narrative strategy. 


by Liu Xiaomin
Editor, Jilin Publishing Group