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“Withered Flower” by Park Wan-suh (2)

#Books on Demand l 2023-05-09

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I again sobbed when he came running. I had no idea why I couldn’t stop crying. He drove with one hand on the steering wheel and the other patting me on the shoulders to comfort me. 

The dog whimpered as he was being treated by the veterinarian. I covered my ears and wept in the man’s arms. This was unacceptable behavior even from my standpoint, but I couldn’t stop the sweet tears. 

The veterinarian said he had seen plenty of children crying over their sick pets but never a granny. He showed me a fish bone he took out from the dog’s throat.

그 시절 내 눈을 가리고 오로지 한 남자만 보이게 한 그 맹목의 힘을 

딸은 정열이라고 하는 것 같았다.

정열이라 해도 좋고 정욕이라 해도 좋았다.

My daughter seemed to think that the power of blind love that blocked out other men at the time was passion. What difference does it make if it was passion or carnal desire?

지금 조 박사를 좋아하는 마음에는 그게 없었다.

연애 감정은 젊었을 때와 조금도 다르지 않은데 정욕이 비어 있었다.

정서로 충족되는 연애는 겉멋에 불과했다.

나는 그와 그럴듯한 겉멋을 부려본 데 지나지 않았나보다.

What was lacking from my relationship with Dr. Jo was just that. The romantic sentiment didn’t differ from the one I had felt when I was young, but the sexual desire wasn’t there. A romantic relationship that was satisfied by only platonic emotions was mere pretense. Perhaps our relationship was just a believable charade.

정욕이 눈을 가리지 않으니까 너무도 빠안한 모든 것이 보였다.

아무리 멋쟁이라고 해도 어쩔 수 없이 닥칠 늙음의 속성들이 

그렇게 투명하게 보일수가 없었다.

Because lust didn’t blind me, I was able to see the obvious. I couldn’t help seeing the properties of inevitable aging no matter how refined I looked.

# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong

The protagonist chose to part with the man for two reasons. She believed that true love entailed not only emotional closeness but also physical contact. She also didn’t want to be forced into accepting a plan proposed by her daughter or the man’s daughter-in-law who sought profit from their relationship. In short, she didn’t want to tarnish their love and she chose to break up with him in order to lead a more independent life. Park Wan-suh is an important figure in literature about the elderly, because she continued to write profusely about the characters belonging to her generation until very late in her life. “Withered Flower” was written when Park was 65 years old, which is why this story contains the sentiments, wisdom and world views only attainable in one’s later years.

그를 마지막으로 만난 날,

곧 미국 갈 수속중인데 

될 수 있으면 오래 머물 거란 얘기를 하고 나서,

그의 반지 낀 손 위에다가 내 손을 정성스럽게 포개면서

한 번 과부 된 것도 억울한데

두 번 과부 될지도 모르는 일은 저지르고 싶지 않다고 말했다.

The day I went to see him for the last time, I told him that I was going to America soon and would be staying for a long while. I put my hand on top of his ringed finger and said I didn’t want to jump into a relationship that might leave me widowed a second time.

완곡하게 말한다는 게 심하게 들리지는 않았을까,

눈치를 살폈지만 아무 것도 읽어낼 수 없었다.

I was trying to be gentle, but was I being too harsh? I tried to read his face but couldn’t find out anything.

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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