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"Birth of a Spy" by Park Joo-young

#Books on Demand l 2020-09-15

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I was asleep for two seasons and by the time I woke up, 15 years of memories have disappeared from my brain. I couldn’t remember my job or my personality. Who can tell me about the kind of person I was? And how can I tell whether the person described is actually me or not? Sometimes I felt like I was still dreaming. This was what had happened until I found out that I was a spy. 


계절이 두 번 바뀌는 동안 나는 잠들어 있었고,

깨어났을 때 십 오년의 세월이 내 머릿속에서 사라졌다.

나는 내가 무슨 일을 하던 어떤 사람인지 기억하지 못한다.

내가 누구인지 기억하지 못하는 나에게

내가 누구인지 말해줄 수 있는 사람은 누구일까.

그리고 그 사람이 말하는 내가 진짜 나일까.

가끔은 여전히 꿈을 꾸는 것 같다.

이것은 내가 스파이였다는 사실을 알게 되기까지의 이야기다.



The protagonist, “K,” suddenly fell into a coma when he was 35 years old and miraculously regained consciousness after six months in intensive care. 



I heard her account of myself from ten years ago. If a human being was the sum of all his memories, I had to find someone who had all those memories, someone who remembered me. But she couldn’t be that person. She knew only me from ten years ago, and I may have changed completely by now. She might be telling me the truth, but that was merely her truth. 


“What can you do if you lost your memory?” 

“I can start everything fresh. It may be a perfect opportunity to be reborn. I wouldn’t know anything about despair or disappointment or impossibility.” 


나는 그녀가 이야기하는 십 년 전 내 이야기를 들었다.

인간이 기억의 총합이라면 그 기억을 가진 누군가를 찾아야만 한다고 생각했다.

나를 기억하고 있는 그 누군가. 하지만 그녀는 정답이 될 수 없었다.

그녀는 십 년 전의 나만을 알고 있고,

그 때의 나와 지금의 나는 완전히 다른 사람일 수도 있었다.

그녀의 말은 진실일테지만 그것은 그녀의 진실일 뿐이었다.


“기억을 잃어버리면 무엇을 할 수 있지?” 

“다시 시작하는 거지. 전부 다. 다시 태어날 수 있는 절호의 기회일지 모르잖아.

 살면서 느꼈던 좌절감이나 실망감 같은 것,

 이를테면 불가능에 대해 아무것도 모를 거잖아” 



Interview by literature critic Jeon So-yeong

A person in general has two identities – one is the “me” that I know and another is the “me” defined by other people and society. These two identities can be similar or completely different. And the “me” defined by others may not be the fight one. But the narrator’s amnesia erased the man he had known and left him no choice but to live the life defined by others. His story demonstrates how important it is for a person to define oneself independently. 




Park Joo-young (Born in Busan, 1971)

: Debuted in 2005 with “If Time Used Me” published in Donga Ilbo

Won the Today’s Writer award at the 30th Literature World in 2006, etc.

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