My Brilliant Life

Translation: Chi-Young Kim


My Brilliant Life is probably one of the most popular books in South Korea – probably due to the movie adaptation starring Song Hye-Kyo in one of the main roles (it came out in 2014, three years after the novel, and fans of Korean movies may know the film by the English title My Palpitating Life.). There are perhaps similarities to the phenomenon of Ukochane równanie profesora (The Housekeeper and the Professor) in Japan – both are intimate, bittersweet stories that have captivated readers in their countries of origin, read by older and younger for years.

It tells the story of a sixteen-year-old boy, Areuma, who suffers from the extremely rare Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, in short: he is aging at a rate several times faster than other people. At sixteen, Areum’s health is similar to an eighty-year-old’s suffering from some issues. His parents met when they were young and became teenage parents, but hesitantly decided to raise their son. They were sixteen at the time – the same age Areum is when we meet him and learn the story of his extraordinary life.

Raising a child at such a young age, caring for a sick boy, entering workforce with incomplete education – these are some of the difficulties that Areum’s parents have to deal with. When they run out money for the boy’s hospitalization, they decide to appear on a television program, and thanks to this, apart from numerous donations and gifts, Areum also finds a penpal.

It’s easy to slip into cheap emotions and exaggerated melodrama writing about such a topic (inspired by the story of a real boy), but Ae-ran Kim carries her story perfectly well. The characters are very human; the short chapters are sometimes amused, sometimes touching, and sometimes they give a something to really think about. The subject of My Brilliant Life is not really the disease, but growing up – asking yourself when and why we stop being children, what it means to be adult, what changes in a we mature… And the answer seems simple and complicated at the same time. Although the first part of the book is definitely the best here, you will want to stay with Areum and his family until the last pages.

Available also in Polish.

Why does a child always look like a child, no matter how old he is? A sudden thought flashed through my head. Maybe that was why people had children. To relive the life they don't remember. That made sense. Nobody remembered their early years. You couldn't remember anything that happened to you before you were three or four, so you wanted to experience it through your child.

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Original title

두근두근 내 인생






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