"The Twentieth Century" by Kim Nam Jo

  • onApril 22, 2015
  • Vol.27 Spring 2015
  • byKim Nam Jo

The Twentieth Century



I loved the Twentieth Century.


I met my life as my betrothed

and through my life-studies

(fated to begin most miserably

on fields of war and death)

I was awakened to pure and passionate yearning

and the nobility of life.


I loved the Twentieth Century.

I loved its shuddering, suffering, and trembling hope.

I loved the sublime loneliness of my contemporaries,

those talented people, distant as stars

and quite as beautiful,

with their superabundant civilizations

and deeply thoughtful intellectual traditions.

I felt greatly honored

to be graced by their light.


I loved the Twentieth Century.

I loved its aesthetics of heart-numbing contrition,

its shame and the ache of its wounds

and ah, its floods of bitter grief:

“Yes, I did wrong, I did wrong.”


I ever so much loved the Twentieth Century

whose lessons and blood, now transfused

into a new millennium, reverberate

through the deepest of nerves.