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“His Room” by Kim Yi-jeong


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The light comes on in his room at exactly 5:20 p.m. every day. Against the darkening sky, his room instantly turns into a bright salon. I’m again looking at his illuminated room.  

His room is a two-story, 30-square-meter studio, no different than mine. If there is something that sets his room apart from mine, it’s the old curtains that end fifty or sixty centimeters above the windowsill. It hangs short like an ill-fitting skirt because the regular-sized curtains are too small for the tall studio windows. I can see just that much of the interior visible through the gap. I can clearly see his upper body sitting at the desk. 

입고 있던 옷이라도 터진 건지 

그가 내복 빛깔의 옷을 입고 바느질을 하는 모양이다.

한 땀 한 땀 떠가는 손길이 더 없이 신중하고도 정성스럽다.

그의 시선과 바느질감이 한 몸이라도 이루듯 빈틈없이 몰두해 있다.

Clad in underwear, he was sewing a piece of garment. Each stitch is made carefully and lovingly. He is completely immersed in sewing, as if his eyes and clothes have become one.

나는 그의 바느질 모습을 넋을 잃고 바라본다.

어느 덧 그에게 바느질은 책상 앞에 앉아 종일 꼼짝하지 않고 책을 읽던 모습이나

홀로 술을 마시던 모습들과 다를 바 없어 보인다.

그는 늘 홀로 있지만 정부와 틈 하나 없이 포개져 있는 사내처럼 충만해 보인다.

고독하지만 외로워 보이진 앉는다.

I lose myself looking at his sewing. Soon his sewing appears no different from him reading all day long without moving or drinking by himself. He is always alone but seems just as fulfilled as a man in a tight embrace with his lover. He is solitary but doesn’t seem lonely. 

# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong

The ‘he’ in this story described as a stranger turns out to be the protagonist’s father. This makes us rethink our relationship with our family members. Family is a tight-knit group, but it is basically a group comprised of separate individuals. After the father left for the sea, the remaining family members couldn’t accept it for a long time. That means that the family members didn’t know him as an individual. This is why the protagonist keeps her distance and simply watches him in order to understand him as an individual. The father character in this story makes us question who we are as individuals, not as members of a family or a community. 

나는 캄캄한 어둠에 묻혀버린 그의 방을 향해 술잔을 든다.

I raise my glass toward his room enveloped in darkness. 

오늘이 네 아버지 생일인거 너도 알지? 

“You know today’s your father’s birthday, right?”

엄마는 끝내 참았던 한 마디를 내뱉고야 한다.

She blurts out as if she can’t hold it back any longer. 

꼭 십 년인데...어디서 잘 살고 있겠지? 

“It’s been ten years exactly. I wonder where he is now.” 

마침내 엄마의 목소리가 포도주잔 깊숙이 젖어든다.

나는 불 꺼진 그의 방을 바라보며 가만히 고개를 끄덕인다.

Mother’s voice sinks deep into the glass. I nod quietly as I keep my eyes on his dark room. 

Kim Yi-jeong (Born in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Prov., 1960~ )

Debuted in 1994 with short story “Lying Low on the World in the Wet Evening” 

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