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French writer Le Clézio and Seoul

Posted December. 16, 2017 08:32,   

Updated December. 16, 2017 09:34


“The train came out of the long border tunnel — and there was the snow country. The night had turned white.” This is the first lines of “Snow Country,” which gave the 1968 Nobel Prize for Literature to Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972). The story sets in Yuzawa, a hot spring town in the mountainous region of Niigata Prefecture, where the writer stayed while writing the novel.

“New York was an inexhaustible space, a labyrinth of endless steps, and no matter how far he walked, no matter how well he came to know its neighborhoods and streets, it always left him with the feeling of being lost.” This is quoted from “City of Glass,” one of the New York Trilogy by American writer Paul Auster who has made his name in America’s modern literary world. The great megacity of New York has been portrayed more glamorous and fancier through numerous art works.

A famous writer has published a novel of which the story is based in Seoul. French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, the 2008 Nobel laureate in literature, wrote a book titled “Bitna: Under the Sky of Seoul.” He was a visiting professor at Ewha Womans University following his first visit to Korea in 2001. He has built up a special and meaningful relationship with Korea. Bitna is his second literary work based in Korea. The Korean translation was published earlier than the French edition. The story unfolds around diverse elements such as divided nation and traditional culture, suggesting that the writer has done a lot of legwork. He said that he toured the city by subway and bus to visit different areas that would be used in his novel such as Anguk-dong, Sinchon and Oryu-dong. In addition to literary achievement of the mastery writer from his new book, I am curious if the novel will make global readers realize hidden charm of Seoul.

City competitiveness has become more prominent than national competitiveness. The French writer says in his new book that Seoul is where the best and the worst coexist. While defining the loss of humanity from development of technology and skyscrapers as the worst aspect of Seoul, he finds charm of the city from the warm scenery observed from ordinary days of an alley and growing vegetables in a yard. The writer loves Seoul, which is the city where past and future coexist and humanity is alive. This is not different than Seoul we dream of.