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“When the Buckwheat Blossoms” by Lee Hyo-seok

#Books on Demand l 2018-07-31

Books on Demand

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They looked up at the moon. It wasn’t a full moon, but soft glowing moonlight was shining upon them. They had to climb over two hills, cross one river, and walk through the fields and mountain roads before reaching Daehwa, nearly 30 kilometers away. 

The company of traveling vendors was midway up the mountain. The night was so quiet that they could even hear the moon breathing. The bean stalks and corn husks were gleaming in blue under the moonlight. 

The mountain was covered with buckwheat fields. The buckwheat flowers were starting to bloom, sprinkling the fields like white salt under the pleasant lunar glow.

조선달 편을 바라는 보았으나

물론 미안해서가 아니라 달빛에 감동하여서였다.

이지러는 졌으나 보름을 가제 지난 달은

부드러운 빛을 흐븟이 흘리고 있다.

대화까지는 칠십리의 밤길 고개를 둘이나 넘고

개울을 하나 건너고, 벌판과 산길을 걸어야 된다.

길은 지금 긴 산허리에 걸려 있다.

밤중을 지난 무렵인지 죽은 듯이 고요한 속에서

짐승 같은 달의 숨소리가 손에 잡힐 듯이 들리며

콩 포기와 옥수수 잎새가 한층 달에 푸르게 젖었다.

산허리는 온통 메밀밭이어서 

피기 시작한 꽃이 소금을 뿌린 듯이 

흐믓한 달빛에 숨이 막힐 지경이다.

Lee Hyo-seok was born in 1907 in Bongpyeong, Pyeongchang County, Gangwon-do Province. The description of the 30-kilometer route from Bongpyeong to Daehwa in this story is considered one of the most beautiful writings in the history of Korean literature.

# Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong

Many Koreans cite Lee Hyo-seok as the writer of most beautiful stories in Korean literature history. Because of his polished language, rich vocabulary, and elegant sentences, Lee Hyo-seok is applauded as a writer who took the artistry of writing to the next level. When reading “When the Buckwheat Blossoms,” we readers can almost see the silvery moonlight and the vast field covered in buckwheat flowers. That’s attributed to Lee’s writing skills that stimulate all five senses. The Japanese colonial period was nearing its end by the mid-1930s, when this story was published. It was a time when everything was bleak. But Lee found something beautiful in the dreariness and tried his best to depict it in the loveliest way possible. His efforts took him to see the beauty in nature and basic human instincts, which maintained their vitality even when the times were harsh. The value of undiminishing energy was what this short story was trying to communicate to the readers back then in the most endearing and beautiful way. 

Lee Hyo-seok (Feb. 23, 1907~May 25, 1942, born in Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do Prov.)

: Started his writing career by publishing “City and Ghost” in 1928.

Published short story “When the Buckwheat Blossoms” in 1936.

Acclaimed short story collections include “Noryeonggeunhae” and “Sunflower.”

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