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“Withered Flower” by Park Wan-suh (1)


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I was much younger when I frequented my friend’s jewelry shop in the hotel mall. Looking back at that time, I was somewhat proud of myself but at the same time somewhat empty, so I must have been way past forty years old. As everything began to feel meaningless, my well-behaving children, my competent executive husband all seemed dull. Once I started feeling that way, I became so lethargic that my fingertips and toes seemed paralyzed. 

That was when my rich friend opened the jewelry shop, and I usually visited the shop without buying anything. It certainly had something to do with the emptiness I felt inside. 

What my friend and I feared more than death was that we were at a point in our lives where we had nothing more to look forward to than growing old. 

오 분 전쯤에 버스에 올라 타 창가에 앉았다.

그는 출발 직전에 올라탔다.

She got on the bus five minutes before the departure time and sat on a window seat. He got on right before the bus left. 

나는 그를 쳐다보지 않았다.

그가 카키색 트렌치 코트를 벗어서 시렁에 얹으려는 찰나

살짝 뒤집힌 옷자락에서 런던포그 상표가 드러났다.

세련된 느낌이 나쁘지 않았다.

I didn’t even glance at him. When he was about to place his khaki trench coat on the rack, I saw the London Fog label on the coat’s hem turned inside out. I liked his sophisticated taste. 

나도 모르게 그와 함께 바바리 자락에 찬바람을 묻히고

그럴 듯한 바에 들어가 양주를 한잔씩 하는 상상을 하고 있었다.

내가 이렇게 이상해지는 것은 

암만해도 그가 끼고 있는 아쿠아마린 반지와 상관이 있을 터였다.

아니면 꼭 그랬으면 싶은 바를 알고 있기 때문인지도 몰랐다.

Unwittingly, I was dreaming of having a drink at a fancy bar with him. The reason I was acting so strangely maybe had something to do with the aquamarine ring he had on. Or perhaps I knew exactly why I was acting so strangely. 

# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong

The protagonist in this story bemoans that her role was downplayed by her nephews and nieces who don’t care much about tradition. She feels outdated as the old hanbok she is wearing. But when she runs into a stranger, she feels energized again and finds joy. Given that, a human being’s role can be redefined within the relationship with others and a person can rediscover life’s purpose.  

밤공기가 냉랭했다.

그가 코트를 벗어 내 어깨에 걸쳐주었다.

나는 마다하지 않고 순순히 그 안에서 몸을 작게 웅숭그렸다.

나이 같은 건 잊은 지 오래다.

The night air was chilly. He took off his coat and put it over my shoulders. I did not refuse. Instead, I willingly rounded my shoulders so that I could fit inside the coat. I had long forgotten about my age. 

벗어놓았던 옷처럼 익숙하고도 눅눅한 내 집 공기를 들이마시면서 

그의 명함을 들여다 보았다.

아무런 직함 없이 이름 석자하고 집과 사무실 전화번호만 들어있는 간결한 명함이었다.

내가 그에 대해 뭘 안다고 나는 그게 그답다고 여겨져 더욱 호감이 간다. 

I looked at his business card as I inhaled the familiar and damp air in my house. It was a simple business card that had only his name and home and office phone numbers. I liked him even more, thinking that it suited him, as if I knew much about him. 

Park Wan-suh (Born in Gyeonggi-do Prov., Oct. 20, 1931~Jan. 22, 2011)

Debuted with “The Naked Tree” in 1970

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