(Translated by Steven Sunwoo Lee, Stanford Universiry)
Our topic requires a quick overview of the problem. Therefore allow me to begin my paper on the literature of Koreans of the CIS with an excerpt from one of my own essays, “The Origin of the Phantom” (1995).
The occurrence of literature for the marginal, for the outsider of world outlook, for the aimlessly wandering Spirit, the eavesdropper of the future, in principle cannot be weighed down by anything, since motherland, memory, genealogy of mythological heroes (in accord with your personal mythology) do not have their rigid coordinates. There is only the steady sensation of a flash, a gleam of some kind of transient, irretrievable, past image, as if…you’re sitting in a train, and in the motley flashing through the window something will without fail—in the fragment of an instant—stop and attract your glance. In this case—be brave passenger!—this stroke, this spot, a corner of sky, a cloud of chimney smoke, a stir of autumn leaves, a splash of river—all of these fragments that fall into the field of your vision, is the content of your longing, the unbearable longing for a shred, a piece of this stroke and splash. All of this is a mindless love for that which does not and will not ever belong to you.
Thus, regarding the subject of our discussion, I would like to state immediately that this longing for that which is not yours, this languor, is precisely the main message and reason for the creation of the literature of so-called outsiders, for instance, the Russian-speaking Koreans of the CIS. And of course, I have not been alone in recognizing the metaphysical aspect of “outsider” and minority literature. In fact, the Muscovite writer Anatolii Kim—of my father’s generation, and the first among Soviet Koreans to enter high Russian literature—has written about this with similar pain and bitterness. For instance, in his 1998 book My Past, he writes:
The time has come to define what kind of writer I am—Russian or Korean…One Russian writer, who can easily be regarded as “provincial,” defined me as such. I relate to such so-called “Russian-language” writers and in this way will always remain among second-raters who are not my kin…But when in the fall of 1989 I turned up for the first time in the motherland of my ancestors, a newspaper there published my conversation with a venerable South Korean literary scholar, who, to my face, declared that Anatolii Kim bears no relation to Korean culture…So where should I go? Далее »