Hee-sun looks out the window. The new buds sprouting on the pruned branches of a persimmon tree are sparkling under the sun.
An old grandfather clock standing near the foyer makes a winding sound, like the moon filling up. The clock starts chiming.
The sound would fill the house and resonate out beyond the persimmon tree. The green glimmer reflecting off the sunlight flickers behind Hee-sun’s eyelids.
희순씨는 창밖을 바라본다.
잘랐던 감나무 가지마다 새싹이 돋아나 햇볕에 반짝이고 있다.
현관입구에 서 있는 오래된 괘종시계에서
보름달이 차오르듯이 차르륵 소리가 난다.
마침내 타종이 시작된다.
종소리는 집안을 꽉 채운 뒤 감나무 너머로 퍼져나간다.
희순씨의 눈꺼풀 사이로 햇빛에 투사된 초록빛이 명멸한다.
Hee-sun and Nam-sik are a married couple in their 80s. They had settled in South Korea after fleeing their homes in North Korea during the war. This story features shards of memories from Hee-sun’s past.
Interview by SNU Korean literature professor Bang Min-ho
This is a story about the husband and wife recounting their past lives and wondering what life is all about. The tone of their conversations or narratives appear to resemble an old couple murmuring to each other. After a decade of living together, what they remember are moments, not an entire span of time. Life as a whole can sometimes feel pointless, but what make it meaningful is an accumulation of memorable moments.
Something must have been wrong with the two hamburgers he devoured the day before. He had diarrhea all night long.
By the time he came out of the tent way later than usual, the soldiers who had just finished breakfast on the other side were standing up to clean their plates. It happened just when Major Smith greeted Hee-sun with “Hey, Good Morning Boy.”
A mortar fell right in the middle of them.
Hee-sun lifted the cloth that covered Major Smith’s body and held onto his fingertips. It was a contact between one extreme body part and another, but a sharp, needle-like chill crackled like an electric bolt through Hee-sun’s nerves.
A funeral dirge resonated across the cloudy sky.
전날 식탐으로 두 개를 먹었던 햄버거에 이상이 있었던 것인지, 밤새 설사를 했다.
늦게 일어나 막사 밖으로 나왔을 때,
건너편에서 빙 둘러 아침식사를 마친 병사들이 자리에서 일어나기 시작했고.
스미스 소령이 ‘헤이, 굿모닝 보이’라고 희순씨를 부르는 순간.
그들 한 가운데로 박격포가 떨어졌다.
희순씨는 천을 들치고 스미스 소령의 손끝을 잡았다.
끝과 끝의 접촉이었으나,
송곳처럼 예리한 냉기가 전류를 타듯 전율을 일으키며 희순씨의 신경을 자극했다.
흐린 하늘에, 장송곡이 흘렀다.
Ham Jeung-im (Born in 1964, in Gimje, Jeollabuk-do Prov.)
: Debuted by winning “Road to the Plaza” at the Dong-A Ilbo literature contest in 1990
Won the 37th Yi Sang Literary Prize in 2013