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"Death Notifications" by Kim Ee-sul

#Books on Demand l 2019-08-06

Books on Demand

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I smelled a disgusting fishy odor. I thought it was the smell of semen, but it was actually the rain. The windowsill was filled with rainwater. 


The phone rang. The clock showed three in the morning. 


“Your mother is dead.”


Mom had been a burden for my family for the past two years. Her whole body was rotting from diabetic complications. She kept on living even after she had lost her sight and had her leg amputated. I wasn’t sad. 


역한 비린내가 났다.

정액 냄새라고 생각했는데, 비 때문이었다.

창턱이 빗물로 흥건했다.

전화벨이 울렸다.

시계를 보니 새벽 세시였다.


“네 엄마가 죽었다.” 


엄마는 지난 이태 동안 식구들의 짐이었다.

당뇨 후유증으로 온 몸이 썩어 들어갔다.

시력을 잃고 다리를 절단하고도 생을 연명했다.

나는 슬프지 않았다.



Kim Ee-sul’s “Death Notifications,” published in literary magazine Creation and Criticism in 2011, begins with the main character, Eun-hee, receiving a phone call early one morning. 



 I drank the hot coffee while staring at the monitor. The coffee tasted different from the ones I had every day. 

Mom had died. Everyone dies. There was no reason to be sad.


Mom had left her husband and abandoned me and my brother when we were little. I felt sick inside and thought I tasted some undigested food that came back up my throat. It was nasty. 


나는 모니터를 응시하며 뜨거운 커피를 마셨다.

매일 마시던 커피맛이 달랐다.

엄마가 죽었다.

사람은 누구나 죽는다.

슬플 이유가 없었다.


여하튼 남편을 떠나고

어린 나와 오빠를 버린 사람이었다.

속이 메스껍고 자꾸 생목이 올라왔다.

기분이 나빴다. 



Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong

Eun-hee’s present is greatly affected by her past. After experiencing such a traumatic event in her life, her father forced her to keep quiet, which ended up changing her personality. In the story, there are many scenes in which her words don’t reflect her actual feelings, like telling herself that everyone dies and there’s no reason to feel sad when she first heard about her mother’s death. She may be telling herself that in contrast to her true feelings. That’s why she said that the coffee didn’t taste the same. It shows that what she says and what she truly feels are completely different.  




Kim Ee-sul (Born in 1975, Yesan, Chungcheongnam-do Prov.)

: Debuted in 2006 with short story “Thirteen Years Old”    

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