A really great article from KOREA Magazine (tragically available on SCRIBD which is tough to navigate – it’s page 16) on Park Beom-sin. Park, who originally hit the Korean literary scene in 1973 when he won a literary award from the Joogang-Ilbo.
Park, apparently, suffered the “inner torment” (according to the article) of all writers and, unusually, in the middle of a massively successful career as a novel serializer (In a previous post I have discussed and linked to articles about novel serialization which include Park’s very famous Cholatse) he went mute.
“A severe self-denial of literature. An ontological anxiety and fear. And, an incongruity with the ‘People’s Literature’ that came with the so-called democratization of Korean literature in the 1980s,” Park says. “If I had not been born in this land, would I have undergone the process of ending my own writing career.”
There has to be a mistranslation in that last sentence (I think it is missing a terminal question mark?) but it is rare to hear a Korea writer diverge from “People’s Literature” (as always, in English) and cast even vague aspersions on anything “democratic.”
I felt that writing a best-seller during the periods of military dictator-ship was a disgrace. So I gave up all the privilege and prestige
I’d attained from my literary accomplishments and returned to a state of nothing-ness. I turned my back on my family and retired to a remote cabin for three years, not writing a single word. But during that period, I found myself to be more alive and gained a unique freedom.”
Nice work, if you can get it!
He also has a great metaphor for the creative urge/problem:
“There lives a beast in my chest that never grows old,” he says. “I call the beast ‘nakji’ (small octopus) because it is mysterious, reckless and provocative. Whenever I stop writing, nakji tears open my sides during the night to come out… I keep writing novels so that I will not die from my flesh being torn by nakji, who is my literary ego with many legs, who never grows old and never dies. I write because I want to live, this world should be vivid, and most of all I still have a lot of love within me.”
the tale of Bongchoo, who soothes the futility of
his life with glasses of rice wine and his wife. An
expression of the author’s anger against the
severe poverty and inequality of 1970s Korea, the
story depicts the impoverished couple’s attempts
to bury Bongchoo’s dead mother in the middle of a
poor hillside village.
a collection of works by the masters of short story
form in Korea. With an aggressive, rough writing
style, Park Beom-sin depicts the life and social
atmosphere of a neglected class of people during
the 1970s and ‘80s. With a strange detachment
from the rights and wrongs of actual war and
fighting, the author depicts the greed and money-
lust of a group of neighbors as a form of violence.
Trapped within these confines, Park seems to say,
it is inevitable that the neglected ultimately resort
to physical violence.
This novel was published in 1993 after the end of
the Cold War, and a revised edition was published
in 2009. This novel suggests how the failed rea-
soning behind the traditional domination of Korea’s
ruling class was being repeated during the often
brutal “Yusin”, or Revitalizing Reforms, of the Park