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"Brown Sugar Candy" by Baik Sou-linne


ⓒ Getty Images Bank

Grandma was born the eldest daughter of six siblings to a couple who ran a fair-sized tailor shop in a port city during the Japanese colonial period. 

All six children were able to get a modern education, thanks to their parents who were knowledgeable in new culture and sufficiently well-off. But unlike her sisters, who graduated from only high school, Grandma was the only one who persuaded her parents to send her to college. This had demonstrated an important aspect of her personality. 

할머니는 일제강점기의 한 개항 도시에서 

규모가 큰 양장점을 하던 부모의 삼남 삼녀 중 장녀로 태어났다.

자식 여섯 명이 모두 신식 교육을 받은 것은

신문물에 밝고 충분한 재력을 지닌 부모의 덕이었을 테지만,

고등학교만 마친 다른 자매들과 달리

할머니만 유일하게 부모를 설득해 대학에 입학했다는 사실은

할머니 성격의 중요한 일면을 드러낸다.

She sat on the piano bench. She opened the piano and pressed down on the keys with her fingers.

All she did was press on the keys, but an amazing and blissful sensation welled up from deep inside of her, just like when she saw a Christmas tree for the first time in a church. 

When a stereo or a piano was a rare luxury, high school girl Nan-sil learned to play the piano from her music teacher after school. One day he gave her the key to the music room so that she could listen to whatever music she wanted on the record player. Her friends couldn’t even dare to dream about love. 

What did she desire back then? Something special, something that would take her to a different world. She never doubted that something wonderful would happen to her future life and firmly believed that she was obligated to endow special narratives to her life. 


이제 할머니는 피아노 의자에 앉는다.

피아노 뚜껑을 열고 하얀 건반을 하나씩 엄지와 검지로 지그시 누른다.

그저 손가락으로 피아노 건반을 눌렀을 뿐인데

어린 시절 교회에서 처음으로 크리스마스 트리를 보았을 때 같은

경이롭고 황홀한 느낌이 할머니의 몸안 가장 깊은 곳에서 피어오른다.

전축도 피아노도 귀하던 시절, 

여고생 난실에게 방과 후 피아노를 가르쳐주던 음악교사,

그는 어느 날, 언제든 듣고 싶은 음악을 들을 수 있도록

전축이 있는 음악실의 열쇠를 난실에게 건네준다.

다른 친구들은 사랑 같은 것은 꿈꾸지도 못하던 시절이었다.

그녀가 갈망하던 것은 무엇이었나~

뭔가 특별한 것, 그녀를 다른 세계로 데려다 줄 그 무언가.

그녀는 앞으로 펼쳐질 인생에 

놀라운 사건들이 가득할 거라는 사실을 의심치 않았고,

자신에겐 인생을 특별한 서사로 만들 의무가 있다고 믿었다.

Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong

A piece of brilliant memory can change someone’s life or future. The narrator’s grandmother has such an experience. Her interactions with her music teacher and her choice of career in music and her passion probably influenced her younger days. With those sparkling days far behind her, Nan-sil became an ordinary grandmother who takes care of her grandchildren. But when in France, she come across the piano piece long buried in her memories. Music brings back her memory and illuminates the beautiful moments from her past. 

Baik Sou-linne (Born in 1982, Incheon)

: Won the 2011 Kyunghyang Shinmun Spring Literary Contest with short story “Lying Practice”

Other awards include the 53rd Hankook Ilbo Literary Awards in 2020, etc.

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