When I Imagine You

  • onJune 25, 2019
  • Vol.44 Summer 2019
  • byKwon Yeo-sun

Photographs Copyright ⓒ Jung Yoojin

How many poems and stories can come from one lifetime? More than anyone can count. Nothing we do or experience is meaningless. The gap between things we find bothersome and curious is smaller than we think. Just like the narrowness of the gap between enduring and enjoying.

Sunday is recycling day in my neighborhood. It was on one such Sunday that I saw a middle-aged woman bringing out a precariously large pile of plastic bottles. The ones on the top teetered with each of the woman’s steps, and when she sensed the shaking above, she quickened her pace to keep the pile from collapsing, and that only made the pile teeter more. In the end, she failed to safely bring the pile of bottles to the recycling area. The tower fell in the blink of an eye, scattering its pieces everywhere. For a moment, the woman stood stock-still. It would take no small effort to pick up all those bottles. Without warning, the woman flew into a rage and began to stomp on the bottles on the ground. I sensed the kind of anger that had built up over a lifetime of frustration, where nothing seemed to work out and life seemed to have no point. That was when a child came running with a shriek and joined the woman in stomping on the bottles. He was laughing and screaming as he tried to crush the slippery things under his tiny feet. Joy radiated from every inch of him. The woman stared with a frown, but in an instant seemed to be whisked into another world. She went back to stomping on the bottles, but this time without a care in the world. Life has a way of pulling together things that are disparate, or even in complete opposition.

In twenty years as a novelist, I came to realize that writing a novel isn’t so much about plying one’s trade and crafting something as it is about quietly listening and watching. People’s lives speak for themselves and create stories. I immerse myself in these scenes, listening, watching, waiting, and sometimes playing. There are so many people in the world, each living unique lives. In all of history, no two lives have been the same. Isn’t that a miracle in and of itself? The fact that people live their lives makes me happy. And I hope my works will reach them someday.

At this moment, I imagine a unique life. Yours.

Author's Profile

Kwon Yeo-sun (b. 1965) is the author of four novels: The Blue Opening, House of Clay Figurines, Legato, and, most recently, Lemon; five short story collections: The Virgin Skirt, Pink Ribbon Days, Red Fruits in My Garden, The Nutmeg Forest, and Hello, Drunkard; and a book of essays: What Do We Eat Today? She has received the Sangsang Literary Award, Oh Yeongsu Literature Award, Yi Sang Literary Prize, Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, Tong-ni Literature Prize, and Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award. The Japanese translation of Hello, Drunkard was published by Shinkansha in 2018.