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"Seagull" by Lee Beom-seon

#Books on Demand l 2019-09-24

Books on Demand

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The sound of the waves struck the pillow. He couldn’t fall asleep. The streetlamp, which would have been turned off already if it were any other day, still stayed lit. Something must have happened at the dock. Either something good or something bad. 


The island is like a big family. 


파도소리가 베개를 때린다.

좀처럼 잠이 오지 않는다.

여느 날 같으면 벌써 나갔을 전등이

그대로 들어와 있다.

아마 이 포구에 또 무슨 일이 생겼나보다.

기쁜 일이나 그렇지 않으면 슬픈 일이.


섬 안은 그대로 한집안이다.



“Seagull” was published in literary magazine Modern Literature in 1958. It’s a story about how middle school teacher Hoon came to live on the island for seven long years. 



Hoon had listened to “Gypsy Airs” yesterday evening as well. 


When the lights came on at the island’s two lighthouses and left two long ribbons of red and blue on the water surface, the sound of the saxophone rippled out toward the quiet night sky. The sad, hoarse sound pushed his thoughts back into the past. As he listened to the forlorn saxophone sound every night, not knowing who was playing it, he leaned against the living room pillar and looked up to the starry night skies without moving a muscle.


훈은 어제저녁에도 그 <집시의 달>을 들었다.

두 등대에 불이 들어와,

청홍(靑紅)의 물댕기를 길게 수면에 드리울 때,

고요한 밤하늘에 수문(水紋)처럼 번져나가는 색소폰 소리.

자꾸자꾸 그의 상념을 옛날로 옛날로 밀어세우는 그 서러움에 목쉰 소리.

밤마다 흐느껴 흐르는 그 색소폰 소리를 들으면,

누가 부는 것인지도 모르는 대로

그는 자기 방 마루 기둥에 기대앉은 채

별이 뿌려진 밤하늘을 우러러 꼼짝도 할 수 없었다.



Interview by literature critic Jeon So-yeong

Writer Lee Beom-seon had also worked as a teacher in Geojedo Island during the war. The island wasn’t specifically named as Geojedo in the story, but Hoon’s life was inspired a lot by the author’s own experiences. Korea during the post-war years was fraught with broken relationships, immorality, loneliness and isolation. But Lee Beom-seon believed that a modicum of human kindness and loyalty remained in people’s hearts and if those feelings were restored, the world would become a much better place. “Seagull” is a story that incorporated the thoughts Lee had while he was teaching in Geojeodo Island. 




Lee Beom-seon (Born in Anju, Pyeongannam-do Prov., Dec. 30, 1920~Mar. 13, 1962)

: Debuted by publishing “Scalper’s Ticket” on Modern Literature in 1955

Won the literature category of the 12th Korea Culture and Arts Awards in 1980

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