Finding the Author’s Spirit

  • onOctober 30, 2014
  • Vol.25 Autumn 2014
  • byAnatoli Kim

I am a third-generation Korean born in Russia.

I studied in Russian schools, and used the Korean language only at home with my parents. When I decided to become a writer, I had no choice in what language to write, because the only language I knew was Russian.

However, when I started my journey as an author, I faced another serious problem, a problem that every writer experiences no matter in what language they write—to find their individual style. I found myself quite well read, I developed a taste for good language, but in my first attempts to create literature I tried to imitate the styles of others. It felt like my real life experience and my spiritual self did not want to dwell in those works. They seemed imitative, without any hope for originality. I could not stand the fact that my stories were lifeless, so I destroyed them without hesitation.

Once I started to write about Koreans, about my friends and colleagues from Sakhalin, whom I met on this wonderful island and who were moved here by the finger of fate, suddenly I felt that something alive and undoubtedly mine began to appear in my stories. An original, genuine, true language of prose was flowing from my pen. As soon as I tried to look at the sea with Korean eyes, listen to the Sakhalin wind with Korean ears, perceive the human world with a Korean soul, I found my own full-fledged language of fiction in Russian.

I found out that the language of fiction, the language of prose, not only presents an author’s writing skills, but most of all expresses an immortal spirit of one’s own people. It is not the language that is important but the spirit, whether it is expressed through the language of Koreans, Russians, the French, or Native Americans.

A Native American, Mato Najin, hereditary chief of the Oglala Lakota Sioux, wrote a book titled My People, the Sioux in English, and the book conveys the true Indian spirit. That Indian spirit influenced the language used in the book, endowing it with a sense of tranquility and nobility. Similarly, in Irish author James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, he expressed the mystical rage of the Irish soul, and considerably uplifted the expressive qualities of the English language.

Thus, it sometimes happens that an author gains popularity and finds his niche far away from the motherland. However, his literature’s spirit, rhythm, originality, and aesthetics are truly interesting to the world if they express the genuine spirit of the author’s origin.

If this happens, an author’s talent is appreciated on the world’s literature stage, and the elements truly valued in his works are themes, aesthetics, and poetics of his cultural heritage.

My works have been written in Russian and translated into 30 languages. Most are dedicated to Korea-related topics. My literary style, aesthetics, and philosophy are considered by critics to be an essential part of the culture of “the Orient.” I can say that I agree with this definition.

If somebody asks me whether I am a Russian or Korean writer, I will answer without hesitation that I am a Russian author, since this is defined by the language I write. However, Mato Najin, who wrote his book in English, cannot be considered an American author. He cannot be even considered a professional writer or historian of his people. His book was not written to please the public but was a knell of his people’s sad history. It was written in order to be heard by his enemies who annihilated the Sioux, Delaware, and other tribes of free Indians. Mato Najin’s book is a proud, mournful song of Native American Indians created in the English language.

Therefore, I am a writer of Korean origin, but whose books are written in Russian in the Russian language. Also, I am, without a doubt, a Russian author. I am a person whose father is the great Hanguk and the mother, boundless Russia. 


by Anatoli Kim


Author's Profile

is a third-generation Korean born in Russia and a Russian-language writer. His works have been translated into 30 languages. Most are dedicated to Korean-related topics.