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“Out of the Blue” by Yeom Sang-seop (Part 1)


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Whether I liked it or not, we lived as a married couple for six to seven years. Am I a terrible person because I’m relaxed and not even worried after receiving the telegram telling me that my wife is at death’s door? Why am I in such a hurry to leave? Because of loyalty or convention? Or perhaps because I have a face to save in front of my relatives or because of my unavoidable duty as a husband? What is the reason for doing something I don’t feel inclined to? 

사실 말이지, 나는 그 소위 우국지사는 아니나

자기가 망국 백성이라는 것은 어느 때나 잊지 않고 있기는 하다. 

그러나 망국 백성이 된 지 벌써 금 십 년 동안 

인제는 무관심하도록 주위가 관대하게 내버려 두었다.

도리어 소학교 시대에는 일본 교사와 충돌을 하여

퇴학을 하고 조선 역사를 가르치는 사립학교로 전학을 한다는 둥,

솔직한 어린 마음에 애국심이 비교적 열렬하였지마는

차차 지각이 나자마자 일본으로 건너간 뒤에는 

간혹 심사 틀리는 일을 당하거나 

일 년에 한 번씩 귀국하는 길에 시모노세키에서나 부산, 경성에서 조사를 당하고

성이 가시게 할 때에는 귀찮기도 하고 분하기도 하지마는 그 때 뿐이요,

그리 적개심이나 반항심을 일으킬 기회가 적었었다.     

I might not be a patriot, but I’ve never forgotten that I’m one of the nationless people. But my surroundings gratefully left me alone over the past ten years since the fall of Korea, leaving me to become indifferent. When I was in primary school, youth fueled my love for the country, making me clash with a Japanese teacher, which got me expelled and transferred to a private school that taught Korean history. But after I went to Japan, I rarely had a chance to feel hostility or antagonism except when I grew irritated and angry at being questioned in Shimonoseki, Busan or Seoul on my way to Korea.

# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong

The story is set in 1918. The author intentionally chose this year because a milestone event in Korean history, the March 1st Movement, takes place in the following year. The title “Out of the Blue” signifies the time immediately before the movement, how and why the movement started in Joseon. The story was originally published in series under the title “Graveyard” but was cancelled several times under the censorship of Imperial Japan. It describes the dark reality of Joseon during the colonial era, much like the graveyard. 

“서에서 나왔는데 잠깐 파출소로 가십시다.” 

“I’m from the police. I want you to come to the station with me.” 

“내가 도적질이나 한 혐의가 있단 말이오?

 정 그럴 테면 이리로 들어와서 조사를 하라고 하구려..” 

“Are you accusing me of stealing? If not, question me right here.” 

대체 나 같은 위인은 경찰서의 신세를 지기에는 너무도 평범하지만,

그래도 이 배만 놓치면 참 정말 유치장에서 욕을 볼 것은 뻔한 일,

하늘이 두 쪽이 되는 한이 있더라도 

이 배를 놓쳐서는 큰일이라고 결심을 단단히 하고서도 

웬일인지 가슴은  여전히 두근두근하지 않을 수가 없었다.

If I got off this ship, it was obvious that I’d end up in jail. So, I was determined not to disembark from the ship. But I couldn’t help my heart from racing. 

어서 올라오라는 선원의 꾸지람을 들어가며 겨우 갑판 위에 올라서자

기를 쓰는 듯한 경적과 말 울음 소리 같은 기적 소리가 나며

신경이 자릿자릿한 징 소리가 암흑에 싸인 부두 전체에 요란하게 울렸다.  

Just when I stepped up to the deck, the sound of a loud horn and a horse-like whistle echoed around the dark wharf. 

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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