The Korea Herald


[New in Korean] Navigating emotional abyss, Lee Seung-u's 'The Voices' echoes loss in family

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Dec. 16, 2023 - 16:01

    • Link copied

"The Voices" by Lee Seung-u (Moonji Publishing)

"The Voices" (a literal translation of the Korean title)

By Lee Seung-u

Moonji Publishing

In Lee Seung-u's award-winning "The Buoyancy of the Heart," featured in his latest short story collection "The Voices," the narrator grapples with an increasing emotional distance from his mother.

The mother consistently mistakes her sons’ voices and calls the narrator by his brother’s name every time they talk on the phone, even though the brother passed away a long time ago.

Adding to the complexity, the mother repeatedly reaches out to the narrator's wife, seeking financial help for her late son, as her memory gradually slips away. The narrator faces the looming threat of losing his family once more.

Lee, a stalwart figure in Korean literature for over four decades, has cemented his unique voice. In his earlier works, he delved into the themes of loss, debt, consciousness and guilt, employing precise and eloquent prose to convey the intricacies of human emotions.

The significance of the characters' voices takes center stage in this collection, notably in the titular piece. Here, a mother and son articulate their innermost feelings through monologues. After the tragic loss of their youngest son, both are overwhelmed with guilt, sorrow and their inability to sleep exacerbating their emotional turmoil. Struggling under the weight of their grief, they unleash hurtful words upon each other, fully aware of the regret that will inevitably follow.

In this collection of eight stories, the concept of "home" becomes a crucible for the characters' darkest thoughts.

Each narrative unfolds around characters who lose their families, navigate conflicts and crises stemming from fractures in their relationships, and find themselves adrift in life.