South Korea, as told by its fiction

Photo: Jung Yeon-I Agence France-Presse
The author of south Korean Han Kang publishes a work sensitive which leaves his poetry to embrace the pain and the anguish of the.

Life lesson by the Greek


Han Kang gives the founding texts of this power to remake human beings


Reconnect with the life at the touch of a dead language : this is the paradoxical fate that is being built by the heroine of the new novel by Han Kang, force sensitive, which leaves his poetry to embrace the pain and the anguish of the.


It is woman, suffering from an early age a strange disease that made him lose the voice. The roots of evil are complex. Her mother didn’t want her even before you have brought into the world. She has just divorce, but have failed to obtain custody of his child. Science fails to unravel the mystery of her aphonia. It is in the course of ancient Greek that it will look for words of comfort.


To him, this is the man, a language teacher. He spent seven years of his childhood in Germany before returning to Seoul, is rubbed in Borges, knows Plato in the nooks and crannies, and will help the woman to translate The Republic in Korean, without comment on his silence, but by reminding him that the Greek used by the philosopher was ” like a ripe fruit just before it falls “.


As it is, its existence is marked by a mysterious fatality : he knows since his younger age that he will become blind. His readings are a way to illuminate his soul before the light turns off. In a staircase, in the presence of a bird, the man and the woman will put their not on the same trajectory as the two soul sisters who are close at a banquet.


At grand light, the pen of Han Kang, one of the most dazzling of Korea at this time, tag the paths of these two protagonists seeking in the texts a way to repair their foundations. The obsession for the language, the letters and the accuracy of the word occurs in this story, which, two years after The vegetarian — another story of obsession under the sign of the plant —, reconnected with the central idea of the survival of the reconstruction and with questions that are necessary on the nature, stupid love, which can destroy everything.


“An expression of the ancient Greek the voice average [said] that the truth destroys the stupidity. Is this true ? When the truth destroys the mistake, had to suffer changes under the influence of it ? Similarly, when stupidity destroys the truth, is crack-t-it, too, and then it collapses does she do with it ? “


Between light and shadow, between darkness and erudition, Han Kang imposes a regime narrative, with dynamic and bright, which is not without recalling that of Plato through the voice of Socrates to instill in its readers these questions, the answers to which are never risk-free. Without a doubt, to remember that life is also a walk in balance on a beam that is narrow in that ” empty undulating like a water of a vivid blue “, when we got rid of our suffering, our guilt, our attachments, of our sorrows and especially our weaknesses.


“What course are given I ?


On Monday and Thursday, a class of ancient Greek for beginners and the Friday, a class of medium level, where one reads Plato. Each with a maximum class size of eight people. These are students who are interested in the philosophies of the west and people of all ages and occupations varied.


Whatever their motivation, those who learn ancient Greek have a few things in common. They have a process and a flow rate slow enough and do not show easily their feelings (myself I am surely of those). Is it because it is a language dead a long time ago, which can no longer be used in the current communication ? A silence, a hesitation and shy a laugh as a reaction without enthusiasm heat and cool gradually in the atmosphere of the class. “

Lesson of Greek
Han Kang, translated by Jeong Eun-jin, and Jacques Batilliot, The Snake with feathers, Paris, 2017, 186 pages ★★★★


Korea in the shadow of its mutations


Two memories keeping two versions of the same reality coexist in this chronic social compiled by Hwang Sok-yong, former Korean of the North become a figure strong in the literature of south korea : memories of Park Min-woo, a renowned architect and established businessman, awakened by the letter addressed to Cha Soona and by the narratives far afield as the childhood friend invites her to conjugate it in the present.


They came from the same neighborhood. They are close together, and then have continued as a distinct trajectories, in the success and advancement for the a, in the average and the ordinary masses, to the other, in the heart of a country whose rapid change can be measured also by the seismographs internal of every citizen.


Through these crossed destinies that recross, the novelist traces the contours of a Korea that does not let himself be blinded by the bright lights of its modernity and prefers to open her eyes to what she made him lose. It is the stability of a couple, the solidity of a social fabric strengthened by adversity and solidarity to Park ; it is the death of a son, dreams of a better future for Cha.


No picture Postcard images in this text solid and franc that finds its cement in the questioning of the usual Hwang Sok-yong, for social justice and for the freedom of the individual, that the pressure (or the stupidity) of the group has sometimes threaten.


This is far from the figures of festive K-pop — this popular song, from Seoul, raises the bliss of smile on the faces of the youth of the world, a little closer to the stories of corruption in the world of construction or such a call to live in a country that, by seeking too much to believe in the beauty of the future, comes to forget to take care of this to really enable all to arrive at this end.


“I wouldn’t know how to explain why suddenly I am talking to you. I’d just like to tell you how I lived until then, a little like I would to an old friend. These tens of years, when I think of it, have been in vain, and I don’t know who I complain about it, but I count on your understanding, I want to talk to someone who knows me since a long time and pour out my heart to him. “

At sunset
Hwang Sok-yong, translated from the Korean by Choi Mikyung and Jean-Noël Juttet, Editions Philippe Picquier, 2017, 168 pages ★★★ 1/2


The heaviness of the traditions


This is not only because he was a journalist and that his pen, probably for this reason, a deadly efficiency. It is also through the slope of social of his eyes that Chang Kang-myoung captivated with this story without concession that probe with finesse and clarity in the inner pain of the Korean youth.


The title has the acidity of a kimchi too salty. It focuses the reasons why Kyena, 27 years old, to embark on a day for Australia. She wants to continue her life as a student first and more if affinities. She leaves behind a lover, Ji-myeong, a boy from a good family, a job in a bank’s business is affected by a case of investment fraud, but especially his illusions about a country whose modernity is too often afflicted by the weight of its codes and traditions.


“I don’t have a future in Korea,” she said. I’m not out of a great university, I don’t come from a wealthy family, am not as beautiful as Kim Tae-hui [famous actress and model born in 1980]. If I stay in Korea, I will end up sensing of trash in the subway. “


The tone is that of the journal, that of a young girl in critical eye that puts into perspective the sociology of the present, just like its aspirations to the contact of the other-and the distant. Of course, the condition of the expatriate Korean in Australia is not an easy job. Immigration faces the same kind of reticence and prejudices to any place on the globe where it is played. But it raises this framework, oscillating between documentary and comedy, in which Kyena will eventually define, in a call for freedom, in the cry of a woman whose tone and the foundations were inevitably something universal.


“I had no idea what I wanted to do. So I thought about what I liked. As I am greedy, I love everything related to food and sweets. And then I also love to drink alcohol. It is therefore better for me to live in a country where food and alcohol are not too expensive, where the air is sweet and the sun always present, and then when I see a lot of people around me smile all the time with an air of happy, I feel good. I don’t want to come across all the days of the faces, closed, frozen by anger and anguish. “

Because I hate Korea
Chang Kang-myoung, translated from the Korean by Lim Yeong-hee and Melanie Basnel, Editions Philippe Picquier, Paris, 2017, 164 pages ★★★ 1/2

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