Ch’oe In-ho, who died last year was known as a prodigious drinker (“guzzler”) and in 2014 his hand-prints were memorialized on the sidewalk of Yonsei-ro, where he frequently drank. He also wrote a bit about drinking, one work of which was “Boozer” in which Ch’oe’s narrator is a young boy in “search of this father” from drinking house to drinking house. The story is a brief 11 pages, and for Video-Tuesday, I thought I’d try to drink along with the boy. Below, in about 20 minutes of video, is the result:
The story is worth reading as it has a narrator who is, shall we say, unreliable, and when the truth of the ending is revealed, the hard-drinking nature of the young narrator is clearly explained.
The Boozer can be found in “Land of Exile” (be sure to purchase the extended edition) which is also an excellent collection of short stories, in general, to introduce a reader to Korean short fiction.
Choi’s Deep Blue Night was translated into English by Bruce Fulton and his wife Ju-Chan Fulton for the Korea Literature Translation Institute and Jimoondang Publishing, and won the prestigious Yi Sang Literary Award in Korea in 1982. Besides winning the Yi Sang Literary Award Choi has also been awarded the 1972 Hyundae Munhak Award.
Also in English, Choe In-ho’s Tower of Ants is a short, but compelling, story about alienation and sacrifice. The first message is clear, as the books’ comparison of human life to an anthill is not subtle (and the accompanying notes by Lee Nam-ho make it even clearer). It is the second message, with its bizarre hint of hope, which could be overlooked.