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Ordinary Miracles: Spectators by Yoon Sunghee

by Jung Yeo-ul October 23, 2014

Spectators

  • Yoon Sunghee
  • Munhakdongne Publishing Corp.
  • 2010
  • 9788954612807

Yoon Sung-hee

Yoon Sung-hee embarked on her literary career in 1999 when her short story “A House made of LEGOs” won the Dong-a Ilbo New Writer’s Contest. She has authored the novels Spectators, First Sentence, and A Genial Person, and the short story collections A House Made of LEGOs, Over There Is It You?, Cold, While They Laughed, Resting on a Pillow, and Every Day is April Fool’s. Spectators has been published in Spanish as Espectadores. Yoon has received the Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, Today’s Young Artists Award, Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award, and Hwang Sun-Won Literary Award among others. Her story “One Night,” which appears in this issue, received the 2019 Kim Seungok Literary Award. Another story, “Page 198 of That Man’s Book,” was adapted into the movie Heartbreak Library in 2008.

An increasingly large number of people are living alone in Korea. There are more lonely souls than ever who live alone, eat alone, sleep alone, and die alone. These people are increasingly alienated from their roots and the family unit. A scant few decades ago it was common to see three generations under the same roof in Korea; now the concept of family itself is being challenged. Yoon Sunghee shows exceptional perception in examining the history and meaning of family in a Korean society that is slowly being forgotten.

Spectators tells the story of a boy who miraculously survives three near-death experiences while also exploring how the eight members his family have a profound effect on each other’s lives. The boy wonders how he, not being particularly brave, industrious, or selfless, was allowed to defy death on not one but three extraordinary occasions. His miraculous survival, however, is not due to personal luck but thanks to the efforts of his family and all the members of society who interact with them. The boy himself may not look special at all, but the stories of his family members are. It is their stories that make this noteworthy as well.

Yoon Sunghee’s writing focuses not on the grand miracles that happen to extraordinary people, but the everyday miracles that happen to ordinary people. Spectators shows what a remarkable amount of history lies behind the birth and life of an ordinary boy, and the amount of love and miracles needed to make that happen. The small but precious miracles that go unnoticed every day are lovingly depicted in this novel. 

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