The Wings

Yi Sang

translated from the Korean
Jimoondang 2001
A book review by Danny Yee © 2004
The narrator of "The Wings" is simple, apparently dumb and at least partly autistic. He lives in one room, kept by a wife who works as a prostitute; he understands neither sex nor money, but something of their importance is clear to him. When he begins to go out while his wife is with clients, to wander the streets at night, what order there is to his life disintegrates.

The two other stories in The Wings, "Encounters and Departures" and "Deathly Child", are not quite as stark, but they are similarly dark and uneasy. They involve socially alienated individuals, sexual passions and obsessions, and the questioning of sexual mores. It's powerful stuff, and three stories in this vein are probably as much as one can take in a single hit.

A brief biographical paragraph is the only commentary in this collection. Yi Sang died of tuberculosis in 1937, aged only 27, while imprisoned in Tokyo on charges of "thought offense" — and apparently these stories are built out of autobiographical components, which doesn't suggest a happy life! Yi Sang may have been influenced by the writings of the European avant garde, but his stories charted a different landscape.

March 2004

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%T The Wings
%A Yi Sang
%M Korean
%F Ahn Jung-hyo
%F Lee, James B.
%I Jimoondang
%D 2001
%O paperback
%G ISBN 8988095502
%P 84pp