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“The House of a Spider” by Lee Sun-won


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The old woman drew away from the door and collapsed to the floor. 

I’ve lived too long. 

The old saying that one should die when one grows old was right. The old woman realized that she had been a burden to her children. Even a spider knew to hang herself after having been eaten by her babies. The old woman slowly turned toward the door.

어린 시절 그는 그런 거미를 본 적이 있었다.

그것은 나무판자를 얼기설기 지은 변소 천장에서 한 가닥 줄을 타고 내려와

그곳에 다리를 꺾고 앉은 그의 눈앞에 일렁거리곤 했다.

아직 형체가 남아 있긴 했지만 

손에 쥐면 흔적도 없이 부서질 껍질뿐인 거미였다.  

그 때 어머니는 말했다.

He had seen such a spider when he was young. The spider had come down on a silky thread from the ceiling of an outhouse built loosely with wooden boards. It used to swing in front of his eyes as he squatted over the potty hole. It still retained some shape, but it was only a husk of a spider that would be crushed to dust in his hand. 

“거미는 그래 살다 죽는다.

 니가 제대로 못 봐 그렇지 자세히 보면 그 거미 몸에 새끼들이 바글바글할 기다.

 새끼들이 제 어미 몸을 그래 껍질만 남도록 파먹고 살거든.

 거미는 젖이 없으니까” 

His mother had said, “Spiders die like that. You should have looked closer. The spider would have been crawling with baby spiders. They survive by feeding on their mother from inside out because a spider doesn’t have breast milk.”

주름 때문일까, 아니면 그렇게 앉아있는 모습 때문일까.

여전히 어머니의 얼굴에서 연상되는 것은 

서서히 말라 가는 한 마리 거미였다.

그는 조용히 거미의 방에서 나왔다.

Could it be her wrinkles or the way she was sitting? His mother’s face kept reminding him of a slowly drying spider. He quietly left the room of a spider. 

# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong

We see the aging issue mostly on the news. But the news largely consists of statistical figures. Of course, numbers help in understanding the reality of the elderly population, but they can in no way replace human beings, because numbers don’t tell the stories of conflict, pain, and sorrow. That is why literature about elderly issues fills up the gap left by the news. Literary works show concrete issues and emotions and offer the readers vicarious experiences of growing old. It is natural for people to age. Remembering that fact is the first step to shaping a country for old men. 

노인은 자리를 걷고 일어나 안방 옷장에서

아들의 내복 중 두터운 것으로 한 벌 골라 꺼냈다.

그리고는 집을 나오다 아파트 입구의 공중전화 앞에 멈춰 섰다.

생각대로 전화는 사부인이 직접 받았다.

The old woman took out a set of thick underwear from her son’s wardrobe. Then she left the house and stood in front of a phone booth at the apartment entrance. Just as she predicted, her daughter’s mother-in-law answered the phone.

“접니다,  사부인...” 

“It’s me.” 

“아이구, 저는 또 누구시라고.  귀한 안부 주셨습니다.” 

“Oh, what a surprise. Thank you for calling me.” 

“사부인.... 건강하시지요?  건강하셔야 합니다.

 그리고 오래오래 사시면서 자식들 효도도 받으시구요.

 그럼요, 건강하셔야지요.

 아무튼 건강하게 오래오래 사세요.

 이젠 더 안부 못 여쭐 것 같습니다....”

 “How are you feeling? You must look after your health and live a long life to enjoy your children’s love. I wish you a long, healthy life. I don’t think I can call you again.” 

전화를 끓고 나온 노인은 겨우 방향을 잡고는 

전에 아들이 갇혀 있던 감옥 쪽을 향해 정처 없이 걷기 시작했다.

She hung up the phone and started walking toward the prison where her youngest son used to be locked up.

‘너무 오래 살았다.  정말 너무 오래...’

‘I’ve lived too long, way too long.’ 

Lee Sun-won (Born in Gangneung, Gangwon-do Prov., May 2, 1958~ )

Debuted with short story “Ox” in 1985

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