Last night I finished Naughty Book (몸, 여균동).
This book caused me to pass some Korean-language thresholds. First, I ended up reading two Korean books at the same time. (I didn’t find it appropriate to read a book with suggestive line drawings and a nipple line drawing on the cover in front of my students while they were practice testing for the spring standardized tests, so I read 빨간 머리 앤 instead.) Second, I read a Korean book intended for Korean adults by a Korean author. Finally! A book that wasn’t a Western book in translation. Third, I read sentences with words like 성기, 창녀, 젖꼭지 and 변태 in them (proving that an adult vocabulary is actually needed in life, I suppose).
When I finished, however, I was not thinking about any of those things.
After storming around the house about it, I climbed into bed with the book. I wrote “10년5월4일 화가 나! >.<” on the endpaper and threw the book across the room, where it landed in a pile of Korean books on the floor.
*** Spoiler Alert ***
In chapter 56, the woman leaves the man. He wakes up and finds her not there. And my heart hurt for the man. I’m not lying. It really did. I wanted the woman to come back.
And then in chapter 57, we find these sentences. “그때 문득 남자에게 이 여자를 죽여버리고 싶다는 생각이 밀려왔다” and “남자는 여자의 목을 두 손으로 감싸안았다” and “-이제 쉬어.”
In other words, the man realized (accidentally) that he could kill her. So he strangled the woman. When she was dead, he laid her on the mattress and said “rest now.”
And then in chapter 58 she visited him again.
I was so angry. I raged at Good Man. “What the hell? I learned Korean to an adult novel level so I could read this sexist shit?”
He laughed, “I told you it would be depressing book.”
I made Good Man read the last three chapters. And then I drilled him. “Is there some time warp stuff? Did he kill her and then wander around his house looking for her? Is she visiting him only in his own head?”
“I don’t know.”
I gave him a disbelieving glare.
“No, I really don’t. It’s avant-garde, I don’t know exactly what happened,” he said.
“Well then you Google it and tell me!”
Ever a great sport, Good Man Googled it. He found an interview with the author, who said that killing her at the end was a “symbol of literature,” because breakups are like a death.
With your bare hands? Pyscho author!
Good Man said, “This is why I don’t read Korean books! I never even read this book and I told you it would be depressing and sad and someone would die!”
That’s true. Although Good Man hasn’t read the book, he knows the author (who is a movie producer or something similar) and he warned me it would probably be dark. And the last fifteen chapters were all about death and suicide (of an opera star).
Good Man said, “All Korean books in the store are Christian, or making money on stock market, or making yourself better in society, or depressing stuff like this, or English books, or hagwon stuff.”
“I wanted to read an actual Korean book written by a Korean for Koreans! A book that hasn’t been translated into English—and there aren’t many Korean books translated into English. I wanted to read Korean literature!”
Good Man laughed, “That is what you read!”
I growled. “Stupid book!”
Diana was online and I ranted at her. She wrote, “This is why Koreans never break up with anyone. This is why they just quit calling. I get it now. Because dumping someone is exactly the same as murder.”
I ranted a bit more and Good Man sighed and muttered to himself, “Oh today is a very strange day. My wife is upset about avant-garde Korean novel and she takes it out on me….”
“Oh yeah. So glad I bothered learning Korean to read real Korean literature.”
If I had read it in English, it would’ve been a pretty quick read and I would’ve heard something through the grapevine about the “controversial ending” or the male character would’ve been called “disturbed.” I would’ve had a better idea of what to expect.
But 몸 is not in translation. It’s modern lit, so it’s not some classic that I’d even read a synopsis of. I was going in blind. It’s written in poetic prose (not poetry), which took a lot of thought and time. But I was interested. So I was reading along, doing pretty well, and really taking my time to read it and to try and understand it.
I invested a lot of time and energy invested in this book, and that’s why I hate(d) the ending so strongly.
However. Good Man found out it’s been made into a movie (미인) and I made him find it online.
I know the story (roughly). Watching it would be good for my listening comprehension.
But I think I’ll watch it when I’m less upset with the ending. Or at least calmer about it. I’m not that much of a masochist or sadist (Good Man!) that I’ll watch it this month.
*** End Spoilers ***
The good news is that with finishing this book I’m quickly closing in on the 400,000 mark for my 1,000,000 jaso goal.