Translated by: Brother Anthony of Taizé
Publisher: Seoul Selection, 2020.
Link to online store *
From the agent’s website:
A gentle fable by the South Korean poet, which is like a balm for the reader. The story is a simple one. A restless wanderer learns there is no place like home. This wanderer is a fish on a wind chime called Blue Goggle Eyes, and she is in love with Black Goggle Eyes. They were thrown together by a monk who purchased both of the chimes at the same shop for his temple. But Blue Goggle Eyes feels that Black Goggle Eyes’ love has waned, and she does not accept his assurances that he loves her with a quiet constancy. A strong gust of wind disconnects Blue Goggle Eyes from the chime, and allows her to fly.
The story has a quiet poetry that gives it the quality of fine literature, and inclines the reader to be patient with a story about a fish chime. Blue Goggle Eyes, like a child in a fairytale, seems to be able to rely on the assistance of helpful creatures, including an adventurous plover, a talking carp and a finch who tells fortunes to people coming and going from Moran station. She also benefits from the wisdom of a reclining Buddha who is in the garden near the temple where she has dangled for a number of years, who may or may not also be the Starlight Buddha. He can be summoned up by calling on him, and he dispenses the calm wisdom that she does not yet possess. In the process, she becomes like a real fish and faces all the dangers that implies, such as being captured and being eaten. She flies (she becomes a flying fish) over the sea and then to Seoul, which she finds overwhelming with its noise and human life. All the while, she is missing Black Goggle Eyes. She becomes moored in a reservoir, where she is caught by an angler. Her love for a grey pigeon is rejected because she is a fish, and she eventually returns to the temple. Black Goggle Eyes tells her. “After you left I have never stopped chiming for a single day. I reckoned that the sound of my bell was the sound of my heart reaching out toward you.”
So all through this adventure is the insistence to love as much, and as well, as one can. And when the fish chimes are reunited, there is a summing up of what is truly important in life. Despite its sweetness it’s not saccharine. It is laced with a delicate lyricism and a love of nature that elevates this simple story to something like poetry.
If a reader can suspend disbelief, they will like and even love this. It defies categorisation. It’s more a poetic reflection on the nature of love and constancy. Your comparison with Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a good one. It is a work of literature with a sincere heart.
* Where the book is available from a number of sources, they are prioritised as follows: (1) Amazon UK site (2) Amazon US site (3) Other sites in US or Europe, including second-hand outlets (4) LTI Korea, where the title is advertised as available from there (5) Onlines stores in Korea. Links to Amazon UK site contain an affiliate code which, should you make a purchase, gives a small commission to LKL at no additional cost to you.