[Web Exclusive] Living life: questions upon questions: Interview with Kim Keum Hee
- onDecember 31, 2018
- Vol.42 Winter 2018
- byKorean Literature Now
KLN: Your short story collection, Too Bright Outside for Love, has been published in Japan. What does that feel like?
Kim Keum Hee: It came out in spring and it was hard for me to imagine someone in Japan reading my book. But then my Japanese publisher came over here in June and I got to meet them and was very happy to hear that my book was doing well with young readers in Japan. That was the best kind of feeling. It was thrilling to learn that young people over there, people in their 20s and 30s like my characters, could relate to the characters in a significant way, even with the differences in language and culture.
KLN: What kind of stories can the reader expect to find in Too Bright Outside for Love?
Kim: The title refers to the daytime world, if you like, with all of its constraints not exactly conducive to love. The state of being in love is like an explosion of emotions, but convention dictates that we hold back from fully reveling in those feelings. The book spans 16 years of those kind of memories, of holding back yet wanting to feel the rush of loving someone. Two of the stories, “Too Bright Outside for Love” and “Cecilia,” are focused on artists. Both are concerned with the artistic journey of taking one’s pain and turning it into art. “The World According to Cho Jung-gyun” asks us to consider the titular character, an eccentric person who doesn’t fit in anywhere, who is deemed too earnest, redundant. It’s about taking a look at how such people are viewed in organizations, and asking, is it quite fair to treat them that way, have we ever considered what was going on in that person’s mind? Then there are six other stories, somewhat different in tone, making up the rest of the collection.
KLN: What made you decide to become a writer?
Kim: I’ve always wanted to write since I was a child. I started writing fiction in earnest in university but after graduation I got a job as an editor at a publishing company. I kept that job until I turned thirty, and I had almost no time to write for myself during that time. I had my hands full just with my work, even working overtime. But then one morning I was running to catch the bus to Paju Book City, and I fell down and hurt myself pretty badly. I was bleeding all over the place but I still flagged the bus down. I stood there squeezed next to the door because there were no seats, and I thought, what am I doing? A few days later I got up in the morning and handed in my resignation. I told them I was quitting to write myself. In hindsight I was forcing myself to hang in until that moment. There are a lot of similarities between writing books and editing them. In that way my job fulfilled my desire to write somewhat. I really liked that job so I thought, maybe I could do this all my life, keep making books that I’m proud of. But at a certain point my heart wasn’t in anymore. I thought, this isn’t what I really want to do.