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[Book for You] I love my daughter, but I feel alone.

by Korean Literature Now May 1, 2024

Sohn Jeong-seung(Sohn): Hello! 

We’re the book prescribers, providing comfort in your time of need through the medium of books.

I’m Sohn Jeong-seung!

 

Kim Sanghyuk(Kim): And I’m Kim Sanghyuk, the man who speaks through poems.

 

Kim: It’s said that even married couples often feel lonely.

This is especially true of women, who generally do the childrearing.

In many of these cases, these women report feelings of depression and loneliness.

 

Sohn: I think our letter this time is experiencing something similar.

Let’s listen to it together.

 

Kim: This letter comes to us from Thoraia in Egypt.

 

Thoraia’s letter to Book for You

 

I am the mother to a young daughter who will be turning three years old soon. Sometimes I find myself crying from stress and loneliness. It's hard to be doing all the childcare when I work as well and my husband comes home late each day. I used to think I was happy, but not anymore. I love my daughter, but at the same time I feel alone.

 

Sohn: When I saw this letter, my thoughts immediately went to

To the Lost Name, a collection of interrelated short stories by the writer Kim Yi-seol.

 

The subtleties of this type of book lie in the way little details connect each story to one another.

This collection features four married women who each star as the main character of her story

women who pass tissues to one another in the hospital or a café,

or happen to find themselves viewing the same artwork in the hospital lobby.

 

The waiting patients were stealing glances at So-yeong, but her tears kept flowing without end. The middle-aged woman sitting next to her passed her a tissue she’d fished out of her handbag. She briefly met the eyes of a married woman walking to the examination room after being called, whose gaze said she understood So-yeong completely.


From “Lost Child”

 

Sohn: The lobby of the hospital in this story has a Rothko hanging on the wall.

Mark Rothko apparently once asked for his paintings to be viewed from a distance of 18 inches (45 cm).

 

The literary critic Park Hye-jin, who provided commentary on this collection, refers to this distance not as one of observation, but as a “distance of participation.”

 

Thoraia, I hope that you’ll never forget that there are precious people around you who can pass you a tissue from eighteen inches away, even if they may be far away in body if not in spirit.

 

I also hope that you’ll never forget your name,

as that’s also something Kim Yi-seol asks of her readers.

 

Kim: Though we take our individuality for granted up until marriage,

it’s easy to forget once you have children that you’re more than just a parent.

I think the words “Don’t forget your name” will be a great comfort to us all.

 

“Think of your loved ones who will call your name

and pass you a tissue from 18 inches away.”

 

Kim: Listening to this letter reminded me of when I was caring for my three-year-old.

Back then, I think I was even more exhausted mentally than I was physically.

 

Children need to be watched constantly, even if they aren’t doing anything special,

and their needs met whenever they arise.

 

You’re not really using your head much, just staring at your kid all day long.

While I was spending my time spacing out like that, I knew my friends would be reading and studying and working,

and I think it was this idea that they’d all be leaving me behind that made me feel more depressed.

 

To console Thoraia in her time of loneliness,

here’s an excerpt from Park Joon’s poem “Autumn Words.”

 

You’re lonely, right? But that’s not loneliness if you look there’s someone who’s thinking about you they’re lonely too that makes two alone then that’s not loneliness,

 

From “Autumn Words”

 

Kim: How’s that?

I think all I can do is recommend overcoming your loneliness

by finding comfort in others who feel just as alone.

 

There must be others near you who like poetry and Korean literature.

I have faith that in the process of reading together, a club of one could become two, and then three, and then ten, letting you conquer your loneliness at least a little.

 

“May one and one come together to fill up the space of loneliness

 

Sohn: The idea that “two alone is not loneliness”

is a great comfort for me as well.

 

Hoping that our words today will shine a light in the darkness for Thoraia,

we’ll say our goodbyes for now.

 

Kim: Book for You:

 

Sohn: A book for you!

 

Bye!

 

Today’s Prescriptions:

To the Lost Name We Could See the Rainy Season Together

 

 

Translated by Jean Kim

 


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