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A famous award winning writer publishes a novel under pen name

A famous award winning writer publishes a novel under pen name

Posted March. 26, 2014 01:33,   


A young promising writer published a book using pen name instead of real name, making headlines in the Korean literary circle. The author is Choi Sun-gyeol, the author of "Air of April." The publisher said, "The author debuted at a reputed literary magazine and won a prestigious literary award that boasts of tradition and authority," with no further description. The literary circle assumes the author is male in his late 30s or early 40s.

Romain Gary who committed suicide in 1980 revealed that his pen name was Emile Ajar through suicide note. Joan K. Rowling who wrote Harry Porter series published the novel "Cuckoo`s Calling" under the name Robert Galbraith in last year. She wanted to have her work gain recognition without being tied to her reputation. Such efforts are rarely made in Korean literary where related people are tied up in a relatively small circle.

The latest publication sends alarms to the literary world where books are weighed by names rather than literary value, and where it is hard for authors to keep conscience as they have to read the minds of literary circles and publishers. The Dong-A Ilbo interviewed him via emails through the publisher.

The author has long been tied up in the literary circle and literature publication market, saying, "I have sold my soul in various ways. I regret it." What happened? "I changed the themes and styles of my novel on demand. I gave up arts for money. It was sweet, but soon turned bitter. I decided not to sell my soul ever again."

Though having won a famous literary award, he said, "This is not important. Evaluation is not of much importance either."

In the case of literary awards hosted by major literature publishers, novelists are often demanded for modification on works that have potential for being awarded. One fiction writer said, "Those who actively respond to the examiners` modification requests get to win. This is reality," adding, "Publishers ask for modification on commercial perspective, not for the sake of literature. They want to dominate writers and tame them." Another 40-something writer said, "During the process of publishing a long novel, I was demanded to write three times from ground," adding, "They said sales will be smooth when the appearance of male hero is stressed and romance code is inserted."

A CEO of a literature publishing company said, "An influential professor of literary creation who controls the fate of many writers dominates the literary circle as a inviolable person. Writers who are his juniors and students enjoy a part of his authority."

Choi said he wrote the novel without any interference or intervention. He said he wrote it the way he wanted. He is an award winner and has published a book before, but still used pen name.

"I think of myself as an unknown. In other words, even a famous literature writer could be pretty unfamiliar to general readers. This is what I had learned."

When asked to talk about disgraceful incidents, he said, "I have a virtue to abide by as a gentleman. Gentleman doesn`t make insulting remarks over past things."