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"Ladies of No. 504 and No. 604" by Seo Seong-ran

#Books on Demand l 2020-11-24

Books on Demand

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No. 504 sashayed in, preened in a pair of round-rimmed sunglasses and a beige sedge hat. She appeared like someone ready to go on a vacation, judging from her sky-blue sleeveless dress, bright red lipstick, and gaudy necklace and bracelet. 

No. 604 knew that No. 504 dressed up from head to toe even when she went grocery shopping or took out garbage. 

둥근 테 선글라스와 베이지색 왕골 모자로 멋을 낸 504호가

나푼거리며 들어온다.

하늘색 민소매 원피스 차림에 빨갛게 입술을 칠하고

목걸이며 팔찌며 온갖 장신구를 차고 나온 폼이

어디 멀리 바캉스라도 떠날 사람처럼 보인다.

슈퍼마켓에서 장을 보거나 쓰레기를 버리러 나갈 때도

504호가 머리끝에서부터 발끝까지 

한껏 치장을 한다는 것을 604호는 알고 있다.

Seo Seong-ran’s “Ladies of No. 504 and No. 604,” published in 2015, is about two women who are neighbors, in apartments Nos. 504 and 604.

No. 504 didn’t look elegant at all now. In the wardrobe missing a door hung the dresses, jackets, and skirts frequently worn by No. 504 and her many hats were piled haphazardly on the floor. 

No. 604 was shocked when she saw a soundly sleeping No. 504.

That was when No. 604 realized why No. 504 insisted on keeping her hat on all the time even while she was receiving a massage. No. 504’s bare scalp looked strange to No. 604. After all, she had resisted taking off her hat even as she exposed her bare face with blemishes, freckles and wrinkles. 

아파트 여자들에게 우아한 여자라는 별명으로 불리는

504호의 잠든 모습은 조금도 우아해 보이지 않는다.

문짝이 떨어져 나간 장롱에

504호가 입고 다니는 원피스며 재킷이며 치마가

우중충하게 걸려 있고

옷의 색깔과 모양에 맞춰 머리에 쓰고 다니는 모자들이

방바닥에 아무렇게나 쌓여 있다.

Interview by literature critic Jeon So-yeong

Readers might find all these characters rather strange – No. 504 who tries to hide her poverty by dressing in fancy clothes, No. 604’s husband who acts strangely after losing his job, and No. 604 who tolerates her neighbor’s bizarre behaviors to sell makeup products and feeds sedatives to her husband. But people like these characters probably exist somewhere. Readers can’t help but feel frustrated at these characters who don’t communicate or tell their true stories, but this is the author’s way of showing how today’s people live deeply isolated and disguised lives.  

Seo Seong-ran (Born in Iksan, Jeollabuk-do Prov. 1967)

: Debuted in 1996 by publishing “Grandmother’s Peace” in literary magazine Silcheon Munhak

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