The Korea Herald


[New in Korean] Korean winner of US National Award explores the transparent and nonexistent

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Jan. 14, 2024 - 12:01

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"Things Transparent and Things Nonexistent" by Kim Yi-deum (Munhakdongne Publishing)

"Things Transparent and Things Nonexistent" (a literal translation of the Korean title)

By Kim Yi-deum

Munhakdongne Publishing

An English translation of Kim Yi-deum's book of poems, “Hysteria” (translated by Jake Levine, Seo So-eun and Hedgie Choi), became the first-ever book to win both the US National Translation Award and the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize, presented by the American Literary Translators Association in 2020.

Since her debut in 2001, Kim has garnered attention with provocative verses tinged with eroticism. She confronts societal absurdities, offering reflections that embrace marginalized existences with love.

In this latest collection, "Things Transparent and Things Nonexistent," she delves into the irrationalities of the world, navigating the tension between resignation and love, seeking to distinguish between the transparent and the nonexistent.

Kim brings everyday episodes to life, breaking down familiarity.

Eating jajangmyeon together, two friends discover their differing political stances and another awkwardly learns about a friend’s posthumous revelation of having cerebral palsy.

Opening the doors of this collection is the poem "Immigration Office," where the speaker, awaiting an American friend at the airport, contemplates how to introduce the city.

A store affiliated with a pastry franchise notorious for frequent labor accidents is located at the airport. The city also houses sly artists still seeking their muse, and there are people criticizing why "they had gone there" when "those who had spent all their lives getting ready" died.

With these complexities, the speaker is reluctant to express love for this place.