Translated by: Paige Aniyah Morris
Publisher: Asia Publishers, 2021.
Link to online store *
From the Interpark bookstore website (fed through the Google translation engine):
The twenty-ninth work of K-fiction. This is a short story by Seo Jang-won that has been drawing attention by steadily publishing good works since his debut as the Dong-A Ilbo New Year’s Literature in 2020. Like in the previous works that carefully captured the “shaken moments” of human relations, this work also elicits complex emotions without a very dramatic moment. The English translation was handled by the translator Paige Morris, who actively translates the works of young Korean writers such as Sehee Kim, Solmo Park, and Sangwoo Lee.
[Happy Together] deals with the relationship between ‘I’, ‘Haeju’ and ‘Minhyung’, who became close in college movie clubs. Among them, the day when “I”, who had undergone sex change surgery in Thailand, met Haeju for the first time after the surgery. After receiving news that Haeju will divorce her husband Minhyung and that she will undergo abortion surgery soon, “I” decides to stay at Haeju’s house for about a week to take care of Haeju.
The novel elaborately describes the relationship between ‘I’ and Haeju and the conditions of association. In the past, it seems that he is forming a stronger network than before by talking about the changes between Minhyung, who had always been in one place, but no longer exists, and the changes that ‘I’ and Haeju have gone through in the meantime.
Literary critic Oh Hye-jin says, “It is clear that the interest in this novel is not only in ‘friendship’ and ‘women’s solidarity’ through homogeneity.” “I” said that Hae-ju gave up her pregnancy, divorced Min-hyung and “is alone”, and “I hope to be able to share more things” with “I”. Haeju, who is “my only friend,” hoped that he would “become a little more minor” like “me.” “I”, who temporarily avoided her seat for Haeju and Minhyung, replies to Haeju’s phone, asking where she is, “I am not far from you.” This last sentence, which feels simple, evokes a lot of emotions and makes us look back at the whole novel.
Korean literature, K-fiction shared in real time with readers around the world
[K-Fiction] is a series that introduces the most outstanding and interesting works that have been released recently to Han-Young University, and is designed to share the vivid scenes of Korean literature with domestic and foreign readers. New works are presented every season.
This is a story about friends who once watched movies side by side on a big sofa getting up from that sofa. More precisely, from the narrator’s point of view, this is a story about staying on the sofa until your friends have all gotten up, until the screen eventually cuts to black, allowing you to see yourself in it.
– From Writer’s Note
It is clear that the story’s interest is not merely in the (imagined) oneness between “friendship” and “women’s solidarity.” In this story, rather than readers finding a target for their empathy in the narrator and Haejoo, an alliance formed as a result of Minhyung’s misogyny, they are most deeply moved by the subtle discrimination and otherization the trans woman narrator has experienced from this cisgender, heterosexual couple. Now, the readers’ interest lies in how the quite skillfully produced hierarchy of cis women and trans women might be redressed.
– Oh Hye-jin (Literary Critic)
Seo Jang-won graduated from the Department of Theater at Korea National University of Arts with a major in Narrative Writing. He began publishing stories through the 2020 Dong-a Ilbo Spring Literary Contest.
Paige Aniyah Morris is a writer, educator, and translator from Jersey City, NJ, now based in South Korea. She holds BAs in Ethnic Studies and Literary Arts from Brown University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers University-Newark. The recipient of awards from the Fulbright Program and the American Literary Translators Association, she has translated work by Bak Solmay, Yi Sangwoo, Kim Sehee, and others.
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