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"Sleeping with Books" by Lee Seung-woo

#Books on Demand l 2020-12-01

Books on Demand

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Books were piled high from floor to ceiling like a tower.

The man was lying in a fetal position, with his legs tucked tightly into his chest, between a cramped space among the book towers. That pose aroused an image of a fetus inside a mother’s womb. 


The article said the man was unidentified. That means that he didn’t leave any clues about his identity. 


마치 탑을 쌓아올린 것처럼

바닥에서 천장까지 책들이 포개져 있었다.

문제의 남자는 책으로 쌓아올린 그 여러 개의 탑들 사이

비좁은 공간에 다리를 가슴까지 바싹 끌어당기고

웅크린 자세로 누워있었다.

그 모습은 언뜻 모체 밖으로 나오기 전의

태아를 연상하게 했다.


신문에는 신원을 알 수 없는 남자라는 표현이 나왔다.

자신의 신분에 대한 어떤 단서도 남기지 않았다는 것이다.



How did the protagonist and the dead man meet and why was the man discovered dead in a fetal position among the books?



I looked at his body for a long time. Then the books in the photograph began to look like artifacts buried in a tomb with him. I believed that no other artifacts suited him better than those books. My heart was even moved to see a death that best befitted that man’s life. 


But for some reason I thought it wasn’t right to leave his identity unknown. Suddenly overwhelmed by the sense of duty that I should tell who he was, I called the police station without a moment of hesitation.


나는 그 사람의 시신을 오래 들여다보았다.

그러자 사진 속의 책들이 그와 함께 무덤에 매장된 부장품처럼 보였다. 

나는 그 사람에게 책보다 더 잘 어울리는 부장품은 없을 거라는 생각을 했다.

자신의 삶과 가장 어울리는 그의 죽음의 모습은

감동스럽기까지 했다.


왜 그런지 그를 신원불명자로 내버려두는 건

옳은 일은 아닌 것 같았다.

나는 그 사람에 대해 진술해야 한다는 의무감에 사로잡혔고,

별로 망설이지 않고 이내 경찰서에 전화를 걸었다.



Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong

The narrator in this story resembles books. His job was making in-house newsletters for his company. But that job disappeared and he was demoted to a small branch office. He also fought a lot with his wife, who was quick to adjust to the changing times. Their different temperaments eventually led to their divorce. The main character is the kind of a man who still believed in the potential power of books and tried to hold on to the disappearing values, but someone who could not catch up with the fast-changing 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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