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"Sleeping with Books" by Lee Seung-woo (Part 2)

#Books on Demand l 2020-12-08

Books on Demand

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How did the protagonist come to meet the man in the article? Why did the man die in a fetal position among books?

“He’s dead.” 

Her words were short and conclusive. For a moment, I thought she was a coroner declaring his death.

“His brother came when the police notified the next of kin. He loaded up a truck with Mok-gyeong’s stuff and said he would take everything to a garbage incineration plant. When I asked him if he was going to burn the books, that brother of his said the books were going to be the first ones to go.

Mok-gyeong loved those books. They were his babies. To see him talk like that, I felt crappy as if he was pushing Seong-mok into the incinerator.

So I said I would keep the books if he was only going to burn them.“

“그 사람, 죽었어요” 

그녀의 말은 짧고 단호해서 나는 문득 그녀가 그 순간 

그 남자의 죽음을 선고하고 있는 것 같은 착각을 느꼈다.

연락을 받고 동생이 달려왔는데,

모조리 쓰레기 소각장으로 갈거라고 하는 거예요.

그래 책들도 그럴거냐고 물었더니,

그 동생 한다는 말이, 저것부터 태워 없애야지, 그래요.

 그 책들이야말로 내가 생각하기에는 그 사람 분신 같은 건데,

 그렇게 함부로 말하니까 성씨를 쓰레기 소각장에 밀어넣는 것 같은 기분이 영 찝찝했어요.

 그래서 기왕 버릴거라면 내가 가지겠다고 했지요.

Han Jeong-tae, the protagonist, asked the neighbor to save the mail addressed to Seong Mok-gyeong.

I came to believe that the books were delivered to me. The name Book Delivery Co-op no longer felt strange to me and neither did the name Seong Mok-gyeong. 

The fact that I, Han Jeong-tae, didn’t feel at all guilty about reading books delivered to Seong Mok-gyeong meant that Seong Mok-gyeong had become an indistinguishable part of Han Jeong-tae’s consciousness.

This was how I was learning how to live by myself, without my wife.

책들은 나에게 배달된 것처럼 여겨졌고,

더 이상 책배달조합이 낯설지 않았고,

성목경이라는 이름 역시 마찬가지였다.

성목경에게 배달된 책을 한정태인 내가 읽으면서

전혀 부자연스러운 느낌을 받지 않았다는 것은

한정태의 의식 속에서 성목경이 구별되지 않는다는 의미일 수 있었다.

그런 식으로 아내 없이 혼자 사는 삶의 아무렇지도 않음을 익혀가고 있었다.

Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong

The narrator sends books to his current apartment, as if Seong Mok-gyeong still lived there. He appears to be trying to carry on the legacy of the co-op president who died among books and to preserve the value and meaning of books. This behavior represents the author’s intense love for books, his wish to see books flourishing in this world. 

Lee Seung-woo (Born in Jangheung, Jeollanam-do Prov., 1959)

: Debuted by winning the Korea Literature (Hanguk Munhak) New Writer’s Award with “Portrait of Erysichton” in 1981

Won the 15th Yi Sang Literary Award in 1991, etc.

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