A Letter to My Readers Around the World
- onFebruary 17, 2015
- Vol.26 Winter 2014
- byYi Mun-yol
To my unknown co-inhabitants of Earth who aren’t able to read my books in the original language:
I am Yi Mun-yol, from South Korea, an East Asian country. I was born in 1948 and have devoted all of my life to writing novels. My last name “Yi” comes from the Chinese character 李 which signifies the tree, and “Mun-yol” is a compound Sino-Korean word of which “mun (文)” means letters or literature and “yol (烈)” means hot or ferocious.
However, the name given to me by my parents and recorded in the family register was the single character “Yol,” thus “Mun-yol” was a penname I began using when I became a writer. The meaning of “Mun-yol” is “writer Yol” or “hot and intense writing” and the Romanization of my name “Yi Mun-yol” is also my registered trademark that is used in the international literary market.
The reason I am providing an extensive explication of my name is that it indicates the process by which I ended up living a life of letters. As a son who was abandoned by a man who defected to North Korea in search of his ideological homeland in the midst of the Korean War, I spent a desolate childhood in the ruins of the aftermath of war. I had from early on adopted literature as my haven of seclusion and soon enough was intoxicated by the appeal of words and, after dedicating my younger days to disciplining myself with a passion I didn’t know I was capable of, I at long last shaped my identity as a writer. But then the intentional direction (of the name my father had given me) differed from that of a person who chose to practice writing. I felt burdened by my father’s wish inscribed in my name, therefore I added “mun” as my penname to confine the passion to the domain of letters.