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Part 3 of “Out of the Blue” by Yeom Sang-seop


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I was dead set against taking her body all the way to Cheongju청주. I vehemently opposed holding a five-day funeral, so she was interred in a public cemetery three days later. People from her family were upset, probably thinking I was coldhearted or relieved by her death. But I insisted anyway. 

아침에도 한 잔, 낮에도 한 잔, 저녁에도 한 잔,

있는 놈은 있어 한 잔, 없는 놈은 없어 한 잔이다.

A drink in the morning, a drink in the afternoon, and another drink in the evening. A drink for the rich and a drink for the poor.

술잔밖에 다른 방도와 수단이 없다.

그들은 사는 것이 아니라 목표도 없이 질질 끌려가는 것이다.

무덤으로 끌려간다고나 할까?

그러나 공동묘지로는 끌려가지 않겠다고 요새는 발버둥질을 치는 모양이다.

하여간 지금의 조선 사람에게는 술잔을 뺏는다면 

아마 그것은 그들에게 자살의 길을 교사하는 것이다.

There is no way or means other than a drink. They are not living but being dragged aimlessly, may be being dragged to a grave. But nowadays they seem to be fighting to not be dragged off to a public cemetery. Anyway, taking away drinks from today’s Koreans is like urging them to take their own lives. 

부어라! 마셔라! 그리고 잊어버려라-

이것만이 그들의 인생관인지 모르겠다.       

Pour! Drink up! And forget! That must be their only view of life. 

# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong

The protagonist returns to Tokyo in the end, but he has changed completely since he left Japan. His letter to Shizuko said it all. We can tell that he is determined to discard his old self that was indifferent to the reality of a colony and to find a new and better life. The story doesn’t tell us if the protagonist actually put his thoughts into action after he returned to Tokyo. But we can guess what kind of changes Lee In-hwa underwent based on Yeom Sang-seop’s life. Immediately after the March 1st Movement, Yeom wrote a declaration of independence and distributed the copies in Osaka. Many Koreans who lived through the military rule of the 1910s must have thought the same. They faced the harsh truth and decided to do whatever they can to change the world. Their determination and fortitude came together to set off the loud calls for Korea’s independence all over the country on March 1st, 1919.  

지금 내 주위는 마치 공동묘지 같습니다.

생활력을 잃은 백의의 백성과

대낮에 횡행하는 온갖 도깨비 같은 존재가 뒤덮은 

이 무덤 속에 들어앉은 나로서

어찌 ‘꽃의 서울’에 호흡하고 춤추기를 바라겠습니까.

약한 나에게 찾아올 것은 질식밖에 없을 것이외다.

그것은 장미 꽃송이 속에 파묻혀 향기에 도취한 행복한 질식이 아니라 

무덤 속에서 화석이 되어 가는 구더기의 몸부림치는 질식입니다.

우선 이 질식에서 벗어나야 하겠습니다.

My surroundings are much like a public cemetery. How can I hope to breathe and dance in this city of flowers when I sit inside a grave filled with lifeless people in white and goblins running rampant in daylight. The only thing that will visit my fragile self is suffocation. It’s not a happy suffocation, intoxicated by the scent of roses, but a tortuous suffocation of maggots slowly fossilizing in the graves. I have to escape from this suffocation first. 

소학교 선생님이 환도를 차고 교단에 오르는 나라가 있는 것을 보셨습니까?

나는 그런 나라의 백성이외다.

Have you seen a country where primary school teachers step up to teach while carrying a saber? I am a member of such a country.  

이제 유럽은 그 참혹한 살육의 피비린내가 걷히고 

휴전조약이 성립되었다 하지 않습니까?

부질없는 총칼을 거두고 제법 인류의 신생을 생각하려는 것 같습니다.

They say that the stink of blood from the horrifying carnage is dissipating in Europe and an armistice treaty is being written up. I think they’ve put down useless weapons and begun to think about the revival of mankind. 

우리 문학의 도는 자유롭고 진실된 생활을 찾아가고,

그것을 세우는 것이 본령인가 합니다.

The way of literature is to find a free and true life, and its virtue is to live it. 

Yeom Sang-seop (Born in Seoul, Aug. 30, 1897~Mar. 14, 1963)

Debuted with short story “Tree Frog in the Specimen Room” in 1921

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