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“Caution Glass” by Lee Eun-sun

#Books on Demand l 2023-07-04

Books on Demand

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The bus came up the hill. A doorman in tuxedo bowed to greet the guests. 

Window washers hanging on the outside of the building were pulled back up. They weren’t able to clear the bird carcasses scattered here and there. Right before the tourists got off the bus, janitors and the doorman had picked up the birds with crushed heads and broken bones with their bare hands. 

Something started moving beneath the lake surface. Waves broke gently, flickering in the sunlight. 

관광객들 사이에서는 깊은 밤마다 온몸이 물에 젖은 괴물이
호수를 이탈하여 산 곳곳을 드나든다는 말도 돌아다녔다.
처음에는 그것을 증명하기 위해 슬쩍슬쩍 물 바깥으로 나가보았다.
그 역시도 오래지 않아 흥미를 잃었다.
그렇다고 해서 호수의 생활이 모두 심드렁한 것만은 아니었다.
청소부들이 시시때때로 도르래를 타고 오르내리며 괴물에게 안부를 물어왔기 때문이었다.
Rumors of a wet monster leaving the lake and roaming the mountain late at night spread among the tourists. At first, the monster went outside of the lake just to prove that rumor, but he quickly lost interest. However, that didn’t mean that the life at the lake was all tedious. The window washers went up and down the ropes from time to time to say hello to the monster.  

청소부들은 유리창의 일부나 다름없었다.
그들은 유리 안쪽의 일에 눈을 감고, 
바깥쪽의 얼룩을 지우는 일만이 세상의 전부라고 여겼다.
간혹 유리창에 비친 제 모습을 바라보다가 투숙객의 항의를 받기도 했지만
도르래 줄을 타고 올라가버리면 그만이었다.
The washers were part of the windows. They ignored what was happening on the other side of the window and considered cleaning up the spots on the outside as their mission. Some guests complained when the cleaners stared into their faces reflected on the window, but they simply pulled themselves up by the rope. 

# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong
The tourists at the hotel follow only their interests and are absorbed only in satisfying their desires. While they indulge their desires, birds crash into the windows and die, the work of window washers is ignored, and the monster’s existence is erased. But a crack appears on the hotel building at the end of the story. That crack is a warning. If people lived selfish lives disassociated from other people and the world, their lives could be comfortable and simple for that moment. But if I can become indifferent to others, others can become indifferent to me as well. That means my presence can be erased from society at any time. Do you think such a life is safe and peaceful? Don’t you think we should start caring for others? This story asks us these questions as it ends with an amusing yet frightening scene.

버스가 요란한 소리를 내며 후진으로 올라오다 호텔 현관문을 꽝 박았다.
문 위에 매달린 호텔의 현판이 툭 떨어졌다.
도어맨과 가이드가 입을 딱 벌리고 버스와 현판을 번갈아가며 쳐다보았다.
The bus backed up with a loud noise and then rammed into the hotel entrance. The hotel sign above the entrance fell. The doorman and the guide stood there with their mouths agape and looked back and forth between the bus and the sign.

관광객들이 떠나자 다시 도르래를 탄 사람들이 허공에 떴다.
호수 안으로 들어가 있던 괴물이 기지개를 켰다.
새떼가 날아와 유리창에 부딪혔다.
호텔의 현관에 뒤늦게 실금이 생기기 시작했다.
When the tourists departed, the window washers went up in the air again. The monster yawned from under the lake. A flock of birds flew into the windows. And the hotel entrance started showing a fine crack. 

조용히 문을 가른 금이 ‘유리주의’라고 쓰인 여러 나라의 말들을 뒤덮었다.
금은 호텔 현판이 있던 쪽으로도 다가갔다.
새를 줍던 청소부와 도어맨이 뒤늦게 문을 붙들어 보았지만 소용없었다.
The crack went through the “Caution Glass” warning written in several languages. The crack stretched toward where the hotel sign used to be. The janitors and the doorman, who had been picking up bird carcasses, belatedly tried to hold the door together, but it was in vain. 

새로운 투숙객들을 실은 버스가 올라왔다.
유리에 금이 가는 것보다 버스가 호텔로 올라오는 속도가 더 빨랐다.
허공의 청소부들이 건물 위로 솟구쳤다.
호수를 유영하던 괴물이 긴 숨을 내뿜었다.
금이 유리 호수 쪽으로 맹렬하게 번져갔다.
A bus carrying new guests came up the hill toward the hotel. The bus drove up to the hotel quicker than the crack running across the glass. The window washers up in the air soared above the building. The monster swimming in the lake let out a long breath. The crack spread fiercely toward the glass lake. 

Lee Eun-sun (Born in Boryeong, Chungcheongnam-do Prov., 1983~ )
Debuted with short story “Red Elephant” in 2010

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