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"The Big Mountain" by Lee Ho-cheol

#Books on Demand l 2020-02-04

Books on Demand

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When I woke up this morning, the whole world was covered in a thick blanket of the season’s first snow. A man’s white rubber shoe was placed neatly on top of the wall next to the front gate. 

My wife and I both had a creepy sense of foreboding.


“What’s with the rubber shoe? Is someone playing a prank on us?” 

“Who would play such a prank?” 


I took the bizarre rubber shoe to inspect it more carefully. It was just a man’s rubber shoe, nothing more and nothing less. 


“I heard the sound of a gong all through last night. Someone must be hosting a shamanistic ritual.”


아침에 깨어보니 온 누리에 수북하게 첫 눈이 내렸는데,

대문 옆 블록담 위에

왠 흰 남자 고무신 짝 하나가 얌전하게 놓여있었다.

아내와 나는 다 같이 꺼림직한 느낌에 휩싸였다.

“왠 고무신일까. 누가 장난을 했나”

“아무리 장난으로 저랬을라구요” 

나는 그 이상한 고무신짝을 들고 이모저모 뜯어보았다.

분명히 더도 덜도 아닌,남자 고무신짝 하나였다.

“어젯밤도 꽹과리 소리가 밤새 나던데요.

 어느 집에서 또 굿을 하는 모양이던데...”



Her story was that she had thrown the shoe over someone else’s wall. Early the next morning, the homeowner who found the rubber shoe must have thrown that shoe over another wall.


The owner of the home where the shoe was thrown into must have discarded the shoe somewhere else. 


It must have gone on repeatedly like this, from one house to another. 



I grumbled as I glanced at the shoe, not wanting to even touch something that seemed to be harboring all sorts of bad luck. 


“Don’t you worry. Just leave it to me. I’ll take care of it.” 


My wife looked very determined as she muttered that she would take care of it. 


At the same time, I recalled the black shoe I saw when I was a fourth grader and the shining blue mountain hidden by the clouds. 

“This is all because we can’t see the big mountain.”


나는 이미 액투성이 때가 엉기엉기 묻은 듯한

그 고무신짝을 만지기도 싫어서 엇비슷이 건너다보며 투덜거렸다.

“어쩌긴 어째요. 놔두세요, 내가 처리할게”

아내는 독오른 표정이 되며

악착같이 해보겠다는 듯이 중얼거렸다.

동시에 초등학교 4학년 적의 그 ‘지까다비’짝과

그 때 그 ‘큰 산’이 구름에 깜북 가려졌던 교교한 산천을 떠올렸다.

“‘큰 산’이 안 보여서 이래, 모두가”



Interview by SNU Korean Literature Professor Bang Min-ho

The big mountain is very significant. It has many meanings – a clear insight, future outlooks, and tolerance for people. If the big mountain is gone, that means that people lose their rational minds and insightfulness and get frightened by a mere discarded shoe and only think about how to pass the bad luck to someone else. Korean society is like a community without that big mountain, without a far-seeing understanding and a clear, comforting presence. 




Lee Ho-cheol (Mar. 15, 1932~Sep. 18, 2016, Born in Wonsan, Hamgyeongnam-do Prov.)

: 1950 Fled war to South Korea alone

1955 Debuted by publishing short story “Leaving Home” on literary magazine Literature Art

1961 Published “Panmunjeon” on magazine Sasanggye

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