[Web Exclusive] A Poetry Reading by Poet Kim Haengsook " The Future 1984"

  • onSeptember 2, 2019
  • byKorean Literature Now


The Future 1984

Even with nothing written in it, the book was a compromising possession.

George Orwell, 1984


Orwell’s river still runs . . .

Arthur Blair’s shadow was thrown over and over into the river named George Orwell until Arthur Blair became the writer George Orwell. Arthur Blair’s shadow did not follow the river current. Staring at his shadow that was not swept with the current, the writer was seized by a strange feeling. Whether it goes east or west, it is said life flows like water in a river, and yet the dregs of life pool like puddles.


The First, Second, Third, and Fourth Industrial Revolutions

swept through the world . . . swapping out landscapes like broken windows. If you can number the river water, if you can cut it up like you cut up fabric to sell, negotiate the price per unit, if you can divide it into North and South, if you can divide it like people, then people that dull as they look at dusk fall on the purple river are not really people. They are cliffs.


George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948 . . .

And he died in 1950. Every night my friend George Orwell coughed, his phlegm and blood boiled, and his bent shadow stretched into the future 1984 . . . Comrade Orwell, in 1984, 1994, 2004, and 2014, in my 20s, my 30s, and my 40s, I lived in Korea. People are like broken records, saying every ten years even the rivers and mountains change, but things not taken by the flow of the river, things not taken by the passage of time, they stiffen up and stand in the future fog like canes that belong to stubborn old men. They are harder than ghosts, so you can touch them. And the year 1984 is opened up like a new book someone stopped reading.


So you’re on your way home, carrying a book you just bought. In the future . . .

This book will put you in danger. Orwell whispers, “If a book is a compromising possession, then we will be compromised, and if we are compromised then the book is even more compromising. This suspicion will continue, become continuous, it will deepen, deepening, and your life will get shaken to its roots. No, no, you deny it. If the future is not present, how do you accept it? How can you fight the future and say you have already lost or won?”



translated by Jake Levin and Soo-hyun Yang