The Black Room (검은 방)

Translation: Sohn Jung-in


K-Fiction series features bilingual (Korean-English) editions of texts by the most interesting contemporary authors from South Korea. The editors emphasize that the selection of the best stories is crucial for them – but everything in these books is enjoyable: careful editing, aesthetics or an interesting study in the form of a commentary/essay offered after the main text.

The Black Room is a story about the life of a 99-year-old woman who was a partisan in her youth. She was one of the few who survived; even when she remarried, it was very difficult for her to adapt to a normal everyday life, without education and normal experiences – only the birth of her daughter gave her life a new meaning.

In her old age, under the watchful care of her daughter, the protagonist has the opportunity to take care of her health, rest, eat various delicacies, but after a life full of difficult experiences, trauma, and then rejection by society, she is unable to enjoy such things. Her days are full of memories and boring, repetitive everyday life that is nothing like the life she dreamed of in her youth. And the eponymous dark room in which he resides is both a real and symbolic place.

Jeong Ji-a is the daughter of partisans; she drew inspiration for this story from her experience and family history. Her first book on the subject was banned after it was published in the 1990s, only a dozen or so years later, along with social and political changes, it was reissued. The life of partisans and their families was marked by stigma for many decades – it is worth getting acquainted with the book on this rarely discussed topic.

"In lovers' whispers, a daughter was born. At that time, she was forty-two years old. That was old enough to be a grandmother in those days. Both pregnancy and delivery were miracles. Miracles had not come to her in revolution, but finally came to her old womb. Apart from her ideology, her daughter was her only reason to live."

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