Monday, October 29, 2018

Yi T'aejun, 'Dust and Other Stories' (2018), Part I

Yi T'aejun, Dust and Other Stories. Translated by Janet Poole. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018.

Fascinating glimpse into Korean life, bridging the period between Imperial Japanese dominance (1910-1945) and the Korean War (1950-1953). Publications by Yi T'aejun (1904-circa 1956) were banned in South Korea until 1988. 

Banned books are often the best ones to read, naturally.

From "The Broker's Office:" "Is this world only good to you if you have money?" (p. 58)

"When government officials buy, even country bumpkins notice something's up, don't they?" (p. 59)

From "A Tale of Rabbits:" "His library was not large, but Hyŏn could not help but feel awe whenever he leisurely perused his bookshelves. He could appreciate the saying, 'To see a thousand years at one glance.' Every day new books appear." (p. 88)

"The Hunt:" "At midnight they had a simple but tasty snack of pheasant and buckwheat with a cold radish soup that made their teeth tingle. and then they stayed up past two o'clock sharing stories of goblins that had appeared on midnight trips to eat noodles or go fishing, or on the way home from visiting girls in nearby villages." (p. 100)

"Evening Sun:" "A stone pagoda stood to the right-hand side as he came out of the station, which bore the contours of a Korean house. . . The cracked and crumbling pagoda was yellowed and bumpy, like the spine of some beast extracted from a layer of earth tens of thousands of years old rather than something made from stone. Surrounded by mountains and stretching out quietly, the streets seemed too fragmented for a town." (p. 109)

"'What kind of feeling could there be without fear?'" (p. 114) 

"'I try not to feel too alone. When you think about it, is there anyone who isn't alone?'" (p. 119)

"The scene evoked the same kind of eternal nihilism as the Five Burial Mounds. On closer inspection there were small hills, woods, twisting roads, winding streams, small villages in the folds of each mountain, rice paddies, and dry fields, and above them all floated the clouds, which cast shadows on the villages and the streams . . . but at a casual glance there was merely the green earth and the misty air, and nothing else." (p. 123)

"Although they stood up quickly, it was already dusk as they walked back down the path. Maehŏn accompanied her to the stations and sent his precious companion away in the dark on the evening train." (p. 125)

"Yi dynasty white porcelain . . . vessels from eternity that provide quiet comfort and refreshment and never exhaust." (p. 128)

Today's Rune: Partnership. 

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