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“The Moat of Solitude” by Yi Kyoung-ja

#Books on Demand l 2023-04-04

Books on Demand

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“The Moat of Solitude” by Yi Kyoung-ja

Mom was in her room, in her study. She would read anywhere but wrote stories only in her study. 

Jeong-hwa was pushed along like a leaf toward the study and peeked inside. She was able to see her mom’s back. It was a bit slumped, her right shoulder scrunched inward to move a pen. 

Jeong-hwa so wanted her mother to notice her, to turn her chair around and say, “Jeong-hwa, did you have fun? Come over here. Atta girl,” and hold her in her arms. But her mother was like a piece of steel. 

좋은 날도 많았다.

엄마는 쓰던 소설이 끝나면 딴사람으로 바뀌었다.

부엌에서 맛있는 것을 해주고

엄마의 친구들 집에도 데려가서 하루 종일 놀기도 했다.

아마 이런 날들이 더 많았을지도 모른다.

아니다, 그렇지 않았다.

정화는 엄마를 이해해주고 싶었지만 그렇게 되지 않았다.

엄마는 엄마 방에서 지내거나 소설을 쓰기 위해 취재를 다니는 날이 많았다고,

엄마는 다른 엄마와 달랐다고, 

분노와 슬픔을 무릅쓰고 생각했다. 

There were many good days. Mom turned into a completely different person once she finished with her story. She would cook delicious food in the kitchen and take Jeong-hwa with her to her friends’ house to play all day long. Perhaps there were more days like that. No, there wasn’t. Jeong-hwa wanted to be more understanding of her mother but she never could. There were more days when her mom spent hours in her room or did research for her stories, when her mother was different from other moms. Jeong-hwa thought so despite her rage and sorrow. 

# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong

The woman writer in this story had three roles to play – a writer, a wife and a mother – and she must have suffered a lot to hold those three positions. As a writer, she had to experience the pain and loneliness of creative efforts and her husband and children despised the creative process and thus treated her coldly. And she died without gaining their understanding. The moat of solitude represents a woman writer’s difficulty of carrying out the multiple roles as a mother and wife as well as a professional writer. This story makes us think about the life of a writer who must live with absolute solitude, someone who couldn’t be understood even by her family. 

이 순간, 문득 소설가 아내가 느껴졌다.

그 여자가 멀리서 손을 흔드는 게 보이는 것 같았다.

At that moment, he suddenly felt her presence. She seemed to be waving at him from far away.

푸른 나무들로 빼곡한 언덕, 

그 아래 깊은 물이 가득 찬 해자가 있었다.

해자 속에 아주 작은 오두막 한 채, 거기 아내가 앉아 있었다.

There was a deep, water-filled moat under a green hill. And inside a small shed in the moat was his wife. 

작디작은 몸의 여자,

멀리 떨어져 있지 않으나 잡을 수 없는 사람 하나가 거기 있었다.

There she was, a small-framed woman, a person not that far away but still out of his reach. 

Yi Kyoung-ja (Born in Yangyang, Gangwon-do Prov., Jan. 28, 1948~ )

Debuted with short story “Confirmation” in 1973

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