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‘I couldn’t get away from Haetae’s unique charms,’ says Joe Menosky

‘I couldn’t get away from Haetae’s unique charms,’ says Joe Menosky

Posted April. 19, 2024 07:47,   

Updated April. 19, 2024 07:47


“Haetae is scary yet adorable, ferocious yet friendly. It has unique charms that can’t be seen elsewhere,” U.S. writer Joe Menosky explained why he wrote his full-length novel “Haetae,” which was published in February this year, during a written interview with The Dong-A Ilbo on Thursday. His new novel is based on haetae, which is an imaginary animal that makes judgment on good and evil. “I encountered haetae in various places in Seoul, including Gyeongbokgung Palace and Namsan Mountain. I couldn’t get away from its charms, which is how I wrote the novel.”

The new novel begins with a big fire in Seoul in 1998. While firefighters run around to control the fire, a tiger-like animal shows up and eats up the fire. The haetae statue in front of Gwanghwamun, which is the front entrance of Gyeongbokgung Palace, became alive into a haetae. The writer refers to a Greek mythology familiar to Westerners, such as the story of Prometheus, and uses expressions that Koreans can only understand, such as the times when tigers smoked. It has a unique identity as a Korean novel written by a foreigner. “I had studied Korean fables, mythologies, and shamanism for several years to write ‘Haetae,’” said Menosky. “The description of Seoul, including those about Gyeongbokgung Palace, Gwanghwamun, and the statue of King Sejong, featured in the novel is what I have observed while exploring the city.”

Menosky’s new book was written in English, but he is studying Korean and hopes to write in Korean one day. “My Korean isn’t very good at the moment. My favorite Korean words are san-deul-ba-ram (gentle breeze in Korean) and si-won-ha-da (cool or fresh in Korean).”

이호재 기자 hoho@donga.com