Translated by: Kevin O'Rourke
Publisher: Jimoondang, 2001.
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The Ma Rok Biographies is representative of Seo, Giwon’s later historical fiction. Ma Rok, which stands for the various protagonists with the surname of Ma in this series of five short stories (of which only three are included here), actually means “the horse and the deer” in Chinese. This odd combination of the two animals refers to a classical Chinese anecdote in which the powerful can coerce others into seeing a horse as a deer. According to its connotations in Korea, the title also evokes the reality of humanity checkered by the vulgar and the noble, thus drawing the reader to recognize the moral ambiguity that operates in the human psyche during turbulent historical times. In this humorous satire, the author plays with the limits of space and time by dexterously intertwining the imaginary and the real in order to enhance the story’s allegorical effect.
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