Left’s Right, Right’s Left

Translation: Janet Hong


Left’s Right, Right’s Left by Han Yujoo, translated by Janet Hong, is an image of how life flashes before our eyes in a moment of danger, just before death or an accident. Han Yujoo describes about a minute in her character’s life, putting flashbacks of her life into this short moment, as well as fragmentary memories of a friend and her stay in Paris. The woman regrets that she did not manage to write her friend’s story, which is why she adresses him in her memoirs. The strong theme of domestic violence can be difficult for many readers – it is certainly not a book for everyone.

Left’s Right, Right’s Left is an interesting proposition for people who appreciate the literary experiments of Gombrowicz, Yi Sang (some of the latter’s works were published in Polish in the collection Kości Dziecka), or the work of the avant-garde group OuLiPo. This is a record of the main character searching her own memories so it does not aim at a specific outcome. Similarly, the ending itself may seem to the reader uncomfortably open and indefinite. The book leaves us with the question: what happened after that long minute on the stairs? Difficult for the readers, Han Yujoo’s formal experiments add a new dimension to the book and make a lot happen in a relatively short story. At some moments in life time can flow more densely, not faster. And this dense passage of time can be recorded in the form of a literary work. For this reason, Left’s Right, Right’s Left is a great choice for people interested in South Korean literature, but also fans of the literary avant-garde in general.

The Yeoyu series is a collection of mini books featuring short stories and novellas. Yeoyu (여유) means a place or space, and in this case, the space of free self-discovery, a place where you can breathe and feel at ease. True to its name, the series presents the texts of some of the most interesting Korean writers, often experimental, surprising and unusual. Its counterpart presenting writers from Japan is Keshiki.

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