Mandala, as the title suggests, deals with Buddhist themes. A depiction of the ten years Kim spent as a Buddhist monk and his eventual return to the secular world, the text addresses the conflict between individual enlightenment and redemption of the humankind as a whole. Ultimately, the author comes to the paradoxical conclusion that ‘finding the pure land is impossible in complete separation from the realm of the impure’.
Kim Seong-Dong’s childhood was spent in the turmoil of the Japanese occupation, independence, and the Korean War. He dropped out of school in 1965 to join a Buddhist monastery, but was excommunicated on charges of defaming his order when his short story “Moktakjo” was published in the Jugan Jonggyo weekly in 1975. His writing career took off when he won the Korean Literature New Writer’s Award in 1978 for the novella Mandala. Mandala was adapted into a movie in 1981, and has since appeared in translation in France, Bulgaria, Germany, and Argentina.