dinsdag, oktober 14, 2003

"Yi Sang v

Four Poems
Translated by Walter K. Lew

Poem no. XIII
Holding the razorblade my arms became severed and fell off. Looking closer I see how cold and pale they are as if seriously threatened by something. Confronted with this I stood my pair of lost arms up as candlesticks to ornament my room with. The arms are dead but seem to show all the more nothing but fear of me. Such frail etiquette I consider more lovely than any flower basin.

Poem no. II
when my father dozes off beside me I become my father and also i become my father's father and even so while my father like my father why do i repeatedly my father's father's father's... when I become a father why must I lopingly leap over my father and why am I that which while finally playing all at once my and my father's and my father's father's and my father's father's father's roles must live?

Poem no. X
In the tattered wallpaper I see a butterfly dying. Secret mouthpiece bearing endless traffic to and from the other world. One day in the mirror I see on my beard a butterfly dying. Wings collapsed in exhaustion the butterfly eats the meager dew that collects glistening out of my exhaled breath. If I die while blocking the mouthpiece off with my palm the butterfly too as if starting up after resing shall fly away. Never do I let any word of this leak out.

Poem no. XI
That porcelain cup resembles my skull. I was grasping the cup tight with my hand when out of my arm another arm absurdly sprouted like a grafted branch and the hand pending from that arm grabbed the cup in a flash raised and hurled it against the floor. My arm is defending the porcelain cup to the death and so the shattered peices of course are my skull which resembles the procelain cup. If my arm had budged before the branching arm like a snake crept back into it the white paper holding back the flood water would have torn. But just as before my arm defends the porcelain cup to the death.

"The writer generally known as Lee Sang was born Kim Hae-gyeong in Seoul in 1910 and was trained as an architect. During his short literary career he showed an interest first in poetry, turning out some highly idiosyncratic and experimental pieces, and then short fiction and anecdotal essays. In the fall of 1936 he journeyed to Tokyo, where he soon ran afoul of the authorities and was imprisoned. He died of tuberculosis in a Tokyo hospital in 1937.

His "Nalgae"(Wings, 1936) is one of the best-known modern Korean stories. Whether its read as an allegory of colonial oppression, an existential withdrawal from the absurdities of contemporary life, an extended suicide note, or simply the degradation of a kept man, it is strikingly imaginative.

Lee Sang was a writer ahead of his time. While his debt to Western and Japanese modernism is evident, recent scholarship has investigated the influence of traditional Korean literature on his work. Since the 1970s his critical reputation has soared. In the 1995 issue of the review Muae(U.S. edition), the translator of the poems published below writes: "Lee Sang characterized himself as split between 'the 19th century's solemn morality' and 20th-century modernity, labeling himself a 'vagrant who slipped into a crack between the centuries with the sole intent of collapsing there.' What this typically self-deprecating remark omits is his undaunted, far from vagrant development of a new, intensely melded Korean idiom that exploited the particular recursive possibilities of the language, as well as its compendious, richly nuanced lexicon. For all their pranks and provocations, the poems' underlying designs are deft explorations of patterns of repetition and divergence, identity and repression, desire and dissipation. Yi Sang's work stands as an important sign of the greatly underestimated range and vigor of Korean responses to the influx of modernist culture, both high and low."


Meanwhile, somewhere in the world, the beer is just too big to handle.

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