Jeong Chan was born in Busan in 1953 and graduated from the Department of Korean Language and Literiture of Seoul National University in 1978. He made his debut as a promising young writer with his first novel, Mal u¢¨i t'ap (Tower of Words), published in Eoneoui Segye(The World of Language) in 1983. He continued his explorations into the ambiguities of and discrepancies between language and reality, establishing his own unique style as a writer of problematic works, the most notable among which are Eoreumui Jip(The House of Ice) and Seulpeumui norae(The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, 1995). His collections include Gieokui gang(The River of Memory) and Wanjeonhan yeonghon(The Perfect Spirit). He received the 26th Dong-In Literary Award for The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.
The novels of Jeong Chan are a testimony to the human history of pain and misery, set against the historical, cultural, and ideological backgrounds of modern Korean society in the 80's and 90's. His works have consistently striven to probe into the origins of this universal suffering and its resulting wounds. The structure of his novels is tightly and meticulously knit, successfully harmonizing the vivid realism of life experience with metaphysical abstractions. Jeong Chan triumphs over the limitations which underlie the dialectic between philosophical thought and harsh realism by viewing and presenting the issues and problems of real life from a fundamental and metaphysical point of view, successfully recreating that reality through his literary imagination.
The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs
There is a city called Katowice in the southern province of Slask in Poland. This industrial city, a central transit hub where major train routes intersect, became a strategic stronghold in the South for Solidarity when the movement arose in 1980. It is also the city where the contemporary music composer, Henryk Gorecki, resides.
Gorecki's Symphony No. 3, entitled The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Op. 36, rose to fame worldwide immediately following its initial release in 1991 under the American label Elektra, and total sales soared over the one million mark. In the classical music market, where sales of over five thousand is considered an achievement, this sales phenomenon was enough to astound the international music world.
There are three soprano arias in The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. They are a prayer called "The Lament of the Holy Cross," handed down through the generations from a 15th-century convent in Poland; a plaintive prayer carved into a wall by an 18-year-old girl imprisoned in a Gestapo concentration camp during the Second World War; and a Polish folk song lamenting the sorrow of a mother who lost her beloved son to the ruthless enemy.
My son, the cherished son born of my body
Share with me your wounds
Let this mother, who cared for you devotedly
And has always kept you in her heart,
Hear your voice just once more and give her happiness
Though you are gone so far away
Mother, do not cry
Blessed Holy Mother Ave Maria
Help me in my time of need
The lines above are "The Lament of the Holy Cross," and the lines following are the prayer of the girl imprisoned in the Gestapo concentration camp. The plaintive Polish folk song of the mother who lost her son is presented in the poem below.
Where has he gone,
My beloved son?
When the uprising arose
My son was killed by the cruel enemy
Oh, hateful one
In the name of the most holy God
Tell me why you killed my son
I weep and weep
Because my son can no longer be by my side
And though the tears flowing from these old eyes may a river make
They will never give my son back his life
My son lies in a cold, cold tomb
But I cannot find it, search though I may
My poor child
Lies not in his warm bed
But in the callous ground
Since I cannot find my child
Bird of God which sings so beautifully
Sing a song for my child
Little flower of God
So that my child can sleep in happiness
The airport in Warsaw was small and clean. It may have appeared more so because of the dinginess of the transit stop I had made at Moscow Airport. I had to wait in Moscow Airport for a little over an hour because of my flight schedule, and it had been dark and dismal, despite the bright opulence of the duty-free shops. This impression may have been due either to my jet lag or my unfamiliarity with the place. I wandered here and there, and finally made my way into the transfer area, a dimly-lit room set apart for in-transit passengers. Some passengers were sitting and relaxing, while others lay sleeping on the long benches.
As I glanced around in search of a place to sit, I noticed several men who were stretched out in exhaustion on the benches. Their clothes looked too threadbare to be those of ordinary travellers. I could not even begin to guess what their occupations were, but the darkness that pervaded their faces was not the expression of those who had somewhere to return. In the airplane bound for Warsaw, their grim faces would not leave my mind.
The Polish immigrations official looked once at my passport photo and again at my face, and then returned my papers to me without a word. As I entered the airport reception area, I met with the stares of the crowd who had come to pick up passengers. Among them were two Oriental men. One was of middle-height and wore glasses, and the other had long hair and was very tall. The man with the glasses approached me.
"Perhaps you are from Korea..." he questioned tentatively.
"You must be Mr. Kim Song-kyun. It's a pleasure to meet you." As I held out my hand, he made a quick bow and took my hand.
"This is Park Woon-hyung, who will be your translator. He studies drama." Introducing me to the lanky man, he added, "I am sorry to say that my Polish is too poor for me to translate for your interview...his Polish is very fluent."
"Ah, is that so," I answered clumsily as I shook hands with Park Woon-hyung.
"You must be tired. Let's go."
Kim Song-kyun took my bag and lead the way. Outside, the cold air sliced through my body.
"It's almost June, but why is it so cold?" I asked as I shivered in my thin shirt.
"This year's weather has been very unusual. It isn't usually like this. Although you may find it a bit inconvenient, since it is already so late, we have arranged for you to sleep at Park Woon-hyung's house for the night. I have a family at home..."
"Are you sure it will be no bother?" I asked, looking at Park Woon-hyung.
"No bother at all..." Park Woon-hyung scratched his head and smiled shyly.
Park Woon-hyung's apartment was worn-down and shabby. The walls were yellow with age, and the room had a chilly draft. After showering and changing into some comfortable clothes, I took out the bottle of wine I had bought at the airport and took a seat across from the two men. The expression on Kim Song-kyun's face as he sat leaning against the wall was somber. On second thought, I recalled that his face had been overcast ever since the airport. A feeling of uneasiness swept over me.
"I will be able to have the interview, won't I?" I asked cautiously as I removed the cork from the wine bottle.
My heart sank.
"Gorecki has made plans to go to England on the second of June. He is so busy with preparations for that trip that it seems you may have to meet him after he returns from England..."
"When will that be?" I asked, my throat dry as I swallowed.
"He is due back on June the tenth..." Kim Song-Kyun lowered his eyes apologetically as he spoke. Since this was May 27th, that meant I would have to wait for two weeks to meet Gorecki, and that was impossible according to my schedule.
At the beginning of May, the newspaper company where I work began plans for a series of articles to be published on the well-known music conservatories of the communist sector. The intention of these articles was to introduce the celebrated music conservatories of communist countries which had been closed off to music lovers in Korea until the opening of Eastern Europe. The series was to be sponsored by a business tycoon, and so the newspaper did not have to worry about paying for overseas trips. The first location selected was the Frederic Chopin Academy of Music in Poland. When my editor informed me of the trip I would have to make, he added as if in passing, "Interview Gorecki while you're in Poland."
I had stared dumfounded at my editor. The overnight sensation who had risen to fame with his Symphony No. 3, The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, had received numberless requests for interviews from the mass media all over the world, but had been extremely reluctant to accede to any. As a result, interview articles on him were inordinately rare in comparison to his fame. However, my editor was talking as if he were telling me to cover a very inconsequential piece. Since I was familiar with his habit of speaking in such an indifferent tone when he was handing out a really significant article, I could not help feeling that a massive weight had been placed upon my shoulders.
Even if I did go to Poland, there was no guarantee that Gorecki would grant me an interview. He was one of those celebrities who had an uncommon aversion to publicity. But whatever the case, I nevertheless had to probe all my possibilities. After inquiring through numerous channels, I came up with the name of Kim Song-kyun as someone who might be able to offer me some help. A young composer studying music composition at the Chopin Academy of Music, he had already published several works in Korea and evidently was a close acquaintance of Gorecki. During my first telephone contact with him, I elicited the promise that he would do his best to help me, and two days afterwards had received the promising news that I would be able to have my interview at the end of May. But what was this he was saying now?
"His British tour was organized very suddenly. So I didn't have the chance to notify you," said Kim Song-kyun, bowing his head as if he had committed a terrible sin. I was in no position to put the blame on him. It had been I who had requested his help, and the sudden change in schedule was scarcely his fault. If anything were to blame, it was simply bad luck. Nevertheless, I could not help feeling resentful. A newspaper company is not a place where importance is placed on the process. If the results were good, even though the process may have been problematic, one was acknowledged as a competent reporter. On the other hand, no matter how irreproachable the process might have been, if there were no results, one was branded as incompetent. To a reporter, even bad luck was a sort of incompetence.
"Is Gorecki at home how?"
The city of Katowice where he lived was about three hours away from Warsaw by train.
"I'm not sure..." Kim Song-kyun faltered as his words tapered off. "Even though we call his house, they won't give us any information. He's so allergic to publicity..."
I filled my glass to the brim with wine and downed it in one gulp. "It's too late tonight, so we'll call him first thing in the morning, and if it's confirmed that he's at home, we'll just go there. If that doesn't work, then there's nothing more we can do. There won't be any problem in bringing the photographer, will there?"
It is of utmost importance to use even one photograph that is truly alive. Even though the article itself may be superb, if the photographs are lifeless, the writing also wanes.
"He should be able to go."
"Are you sure? What if he says he can't go?"
"He's a busy person, but he should be able to afford us a day."
"What does he do?" My tone was becoming inadvertently brusque.
"His name is Min Young-soo, and he studies film."
It was strange to hear of somebody studying the cinema in Poland. Maybe in the United States or Paris, but not in Poland.
"He's a student at the Leon Schiller School of Film, Television and Theater in Lodz. You've heard of the movie director, Kieslowski, the one who made The Double Life of Veronica?"
"The Double Life of Veronica?"
"He also made the movie called Blue. And the following episodes, White and Red."
"Oh, that movie!"
I never went to a movie theater unless it was playing something that I really wanted to see. This was due to the time restrictions of my busy everyday life. It had been the advertisement for Blue, which boasted how the movie had received the Best Film, the Best Actress, and the Best Cinematography Awards at the 1993 Venice Film Festival, that had lured me to the theater. The fact that the director was from Poland had also piqued my interest. Until then, I had never seen a movie from Eastern Europe before, not to mention from Poland. Movie critics were lauding Kieslowski as the finest artistic virtuoso in all of Eastern Europe. What distinguished this movie from the others was that it had been produced as a serial work. Its modernistic interpretation of the three concepts of the French revolution - freedom, equality, and fraternity - began with Blue, and continued in White and Red.
A peaceful country road. A happy family starts out on a picnic. But an unforeseen accident happens, and the heroine, Julie, wakes up alone in a hospital room. Faced with the cruel reality of the deaths of her composer husband and five year-old daughter, Julie contemplates suicide. Throughout the movie, lighting and music are used to indicate the variegations in the spectrum of the heroine's life. The deepest blue of night. The hazy blue of misty dawn. Music flowing from that blueness.
"Kieslowski graduated from the Lodz School of Film. It is the birthplace of the revival of East European theater."
"I see. By the way, you mentioned that Park Woon-hyung also studies drama. Does he attend the same school as Min Young-soo?"
"No. He is an actor with a theatrical company."
"Really?" My eyes opened wide in surprise as I looked over at Park Woon-hyung.
"He is the one and only Korean actor in Poland, so you may want to treat him with a little deference," Kim Song-kyun remarked with a grin.
"I've heard that the quality of Polish drama is exceptionally high."
"Exceptionally, yes. You have heard of Grotowski?"
His question put me in an awkward position to answer. I had only the very limited knowledge that Grotowski was a revolutionary artist who had rejected all the existing dramatic traditions of the West and had formed a new theory of drama, and that was all.
"I am familiar only with the name. What was that theory that he expounded..."
"Do you mean the poor theater?"
I nodded in answer to Kim Song-kyun's question.
"That's right. The poor theater. But what is the poor theater? I know almost nothing about drama..."
"It has also been translated as the theater of poverty. To put it simply, you can think of it as an antithetical concept to the rich theater. If the rich theater revels in the splendor of elaborate wardrobes, stage designs, make-up, lighting, sound effects, and the like, the poor theater totally rejects any and all kinds of ornamentation. This is because these embellishments are seen as obstacles in the path of a true encounter between actor and audience. This new concept of dramatic aesthetics had an immense influence on the existing drama of the West. Ah, not only the West. It was Grotowskian drama that brought him to Poland."
As he spoke, Kim Song-kyun looked over at Park Woon-hyung, who was listening quietly.
"He was deeply moved by watching a work by Grotowski performed while he was in the United States. He was so affected that he left the land of plenty and came to this impoverished country in Eastern Europe."
"The United States?"
"He came here four years ago, while he was in the middle of his drama studies in New York."
"And how is the Polish economy?"
"Not doing too well. After it became a market economy, superficially the situation looked like it was improving. Imports flooded in, and stores were stocked to their ceilings in merchandise. But if you observe more carefully, you'll find that things are in chaos. The phenomenon of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer has become increasingly conspicuous, and as a result, unemployment and inflation have lowered the standards of life terribly."
"This unequal distribution of wealth must be a new element of conflict."
"Of course. Already, there is a growing nostalgia for the time when people lived as equals, even though they were poor. The old communist powers have taken advantage of this and have emerged at the front of the power struggle."
"Hasn't it become more difficult to stage dramas after the opening of the market?"
I posed my question at Park Woon-hyung. Before the fall of communism, socialist governments had actively supported artistic organizations, and admission prices to theaters had been fixed so low that citizens had not been financially burdened at all. Therefore, citizens, whose goal in life had not been to earn money, had been able to become connoisseurs of art who went regularly to the theater on weekends to enjoy drama and music. This was a common aspect of all the communist nations in Eastern Europe, including Russia. But as the market opened, government funding came to an end, and artists had to begin worrying about finances, and, with the exception of the affluent few, ordinary citizens became too busy earning a living to remember the theater.
"Even though things are difficult, there are some positive advantages to this situation. Our spirit of self-reliance has become stronger, and there is no more interference from the government, so we can collaborate freely with foreign drama companies..."
Park Woon-hyung looked as if he were about to say more, and then closed his mouth. He seemed to be one of those innately taciturn types. His eyes were large and his face slender, so he gave the overall impression of innocence, but on closer observation, his face revealed many fine wrinkles and was overcast with shadows.
"My goodness, is it this late already? I have to get going before I miss the last bus. Park Woon-hyung will telephone Gorecki for you." Kim Song-kyun gulped down the wine remaining in his glass and stood up.
Warsaw Station was very crowded. The line stretched out in front of the ticket window indicated that we would have to wait for some time before we could purchase our tickets.
"It's because today is Sunday."
I realized it was Sunday only after Park Woon-hyung spoke. My notion of time had been lost in the lapse of time zones.
As a result of a telephone call made in the morning, we had learned from Gorecki's wife that he was indeed at home. However, due to a recital to be held in another city, he would return late that night, and so we would not be able to meet him that day. Nevertheless, I decided that it would be wise to head for Katowice anyway. Park Woon-hyung telephoned our photographer, Min Young-soo, who said he could not meet us during the day due to other commitments, but that if we went on ahead and let him know where we were staying, he would come and join us later that night.
Park Woon-hyung looked at his watch and glanced around. It was a little past our appointment time to meet Kim Song-kyun.
"How did you get started in the theater?"
Park Woon-hyung laughed uncomfortably at my question.
"Coincidence, I suppose."
His answer was more banal than I had expected.
"Have you performed much on the stage?"
"Well...Ah, there he comes."
I turned my head in the direction Park Woon-hyung indicated. Grinning widely, Kim Song-kyun, dressed in a grey jacket, was approaching us.
The 1:38 train arrived in Katowice at 4:23. Since it was an industrial city, its buildings were mostly dark gray in color. Warsaw was just as gloomy, but this could not be helped because the buildings were generally all old, and the walls had not been painted. According to Kim Song-kyun, it became even more dismal during the winter, when the daylight was short and the weather overcast.
As soon as we entered our room in the Katowice Hotel, which had been chosen so that Min Young-soo could find us easily, we made a call to Gorecki's home. His son answered the telephone, and Park Woon-hyung informed him in impeccable Polish that the reporter who had travelled from Korea to meet Gorecki had just arrived in Katowice and wanted to request that a meeting be arranged for the next day. Then, he phoned Min Young-soo and notified him of the name of our hotel. Everything had been done for the day. We ate a late lunch and then left the hotel to explore the city.
Min Young-soo showed up at about 11:00 at night while we were drinking in the underground bar of the hotel. We had left a message at the front desk for him to come to the bar as soon as he arrived. Tall and lean, he shook hands warmly with Kim Song-kyun and Park Woon-hyung. The three seemed to be exceptionally close friends.
We were all a little drunk, but nevertheless, the conversation had not warmed up. I was feeling despondent because of the uncertainty of my interview with Gorecki, and Park Woon-hyung had remained characteristically uncommunicative. Kim Song-kyun was playing a bridge role between Park Woon-hyung and myself, but the conversation kept running aground. It was at this point that Min Young-soo made his entrance, immediately brightening up the mood.
"Min Young-soo devotes his life to imitating Kieslowski."
Min Young-soo scratched his head as Kim Song-kyun teased him loudly. By the expression on Min Young-soo's face, what Kim Song-kyun had said was not a complete untruth.
"Finally, we're all together. Let's drink a toast to tomorrow's good luck." Kim Song-kyun held up his beer mug.
"Why does Polish beer taste so bitter?" I asked as I refilled my empty glass.
"In the beginning, it tasted very strange to me too, but now I've become used to it. If you savor it deeply, you will find that it tastes like browned rice. Not just browned rice, but a little burned."
Kim Song-kyun was the most cheerful of the group. I couldn't be sure about Min Young-soo, who had just arrived, but from appearances, he didn't seem to be sociably inclined, and as for Park Woon-hyung, he had simply clammed up. The night before, at Park Woon-hyung's apartment, I had dropped off to sleep almost as soon as I had laid down. I had awakened groggily sometime at dawn and seen the silhouette of Park Woon-hyung's back as he sat hunched over a desk. By the light of the small desk lamp, his stooped back had looked so forlorn. The next morning, when I had asked him what had kept him up all night, he had said that he been up just because he had not been able to fall asleep.
"How long does it take to go to Auschwitz from here?" I asked Park Woon-hyung, who was sitting beside me.
"What?" Startled, Park Woon-hyung shot back with another question. His eyes had opened wide in alarm, and the blood had drained from his face. I didn't understand his agitation and was completely taken aback by the intensity of his reaction.
"I mean the concentration camp, Auschwitz. I don't think it's too far from here..."
While looking at some travel brochures on the airplane, I had unexpectedly come across the information that the site of the most brutal mass genocide in the history of mankind, the concentration camp called Auschwitz, was located very close to Katowice. I had decided that I should visit the place, despite my tight schedule.
"Ah, yes...it's, very close from here. It takes about thirty, forty minutes by car."
Something was wrong. Park Woon-hyung's face, which clearly showed signs of agitation, had gone beyond being pale to have become completely ashen, and now he was even stuttering.
"Are you planning on visiting Auschwitz?" Kim Song-kyun broke into our conversation, the expression on his face somewhat strained.
"Since I've travelled this far, I thought I might as well go there."
"Yes, that's true." Kim Song-kyun nodded in agreement as he glanced furtively at Park Woon-hyung. An embarrassing silence ensued. Kim Song-kyun and Min Young-soo sat uncomfortably, while Park Woon-hyung fiddled with a glass, his thin lips pursed tightly. I was quite perplexed. The prospect of going to Auschwitz was apparently an unwelcome ordeal to the three men.
"I didn't mean that I had to go..."
"It's not far, just under our noses, and we must, of course, take you there."
Park Woon-hyung, relaxing the tense expression on his face, cut me off before I could finish what I was saying.
"Auschwitz is the German pronunciation, and in Polish, it is pronounced Oswiecim. Do you know what Oswiecim means?" He asked the question in a light tone, as if to alleviate the heaviness of the atmosphere.
"No, I don't know."
"It means, the very good land, the blessed land."
"Is that so?"
"It is an irony of language. The village was probably named so out of an ardent desire that God would make it into such a land. I imagine that all the villagers gathered and prayed devotedly for this longing to come true. Because to humans, names are not only simple codes but deep symbols."
"Deep symbols..." Min Young-soo repeated the words in a mumble.
"He is thinking about movies again," Kim Song-kyun said as he slapped Min Young-soo on the shoulder. "Min Young-soo's passion for the cinema is immeasurable. He relates everything to movies. To him, a movie is a profound symbol. He believes that the deepest symbol in this day and age is the movie. Am I wrong?"
Min Young-soo just laughed in reply to his words.
"The ancients, who did not clearly differentiate between words and objects, thought that there was a fundamental relationship between objects and their names. They believed a person's name was inseparably linked to his life. Even now, when Eskimos get old, they give themselves new names in order to make new contracts on life. With whom do they make their contracts? With God. Through their prayers, they finalize new contracts with God. The name of Oswiecim contains the earnest prayers of mankind. But the place became a hell. One million fifty thousand lost their lives in the blessed land. Why did the Germans kill with such determination? Because of their innate cruelty? Or was it because someone had not prayed faithfully to God?"
Nobody answered Park Woon-hyung's question.
The next morning around nine, Park Woon-hyung called Gorecki's house. Unable to understand Polish, I could only anxiously study the expression on Park Woon-hyung's face. After a while, a smile came to his lips, and then Kim Song-kyun's face also broke into a grin. According to Park Woon-hyung, Gorecki had received the phone himself, and in reply to the request for an interview, had agreed to come to the Katowice Hotel where we were staying by 11:30 that morning, but had added that he was pressed for time and that he would appreciate it if the interview could be concluded as quickly as possible. I sighed in relief. Kim Song-kyun reasoned that although Gorecki despised the mass media, he had not been able to turn his back upon the dedication it had taken for me to make the trip to Katowice. Nevertheless, I was not wholly without regrets. Not only would the time for my interview be limited, but the location of the interview would be the hotel, and not Gorecki's home.
A home is a place where you can discern the true fragrance of a person. A glimpse of a person's workplace is even more revealing. But Gorecki had circumvented that from happening. Even though Park Woon-hyung had offered two times to visit him at his home, Gorecki had insisted on coming to the hotel. It was clear that Gorecki wanted to veil himself from the public.
I waited for Gorecki outside the entrance of the hotel with Kim Song-kyun. The hands of the clock were just passing the appointed time of 11:30.
"Why hasn't he arrived," I mumbled as I squinted at the dazzling road. I noticed one man walking towards us from the parking lot opposite the hotel. He was an old gentlemen dressed in a dark blue suit and a necktie. But his gait was peculiar. One shoulder was slanted, and his whole body jolted unnaturally. On closer observation, I saw that he was walking on the toes of one foot, like a ballerina.
I nodded in acknowledgement as Kim Song-kyun whispered to me.
"But why does he walk like that?"
"He has a chronic ailment of the joints. Sometimes, the pain becomes very bad, and at those times, he becomes a holy terror. One time, someone visited his house, and Gorecki assaulted him with screams for being so well and healthy when he himself was in such pain. There are quite a few who have had the same experience while talking to him over the phone. Along the lines of, I'm suffering, but why do you sound so cheerful."
Kim Song-kyun shook hands warmly with Gorecki and then introduced me. As he shook my hand, Gorecki said something in Polish, which Kim Song-kyun translated in a low voice to mean that Gorecki didn't understand why I had come so far to meet someone like him.
We took him to the restaurant where we had made reservations. Park Woon-hyung and I sat on either side of Gorecki, and Kim Song-kyun sat across from him.
¦¡I believe that the theme of Symphony No. 3, The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, is encapsulated in the three soprano arias. These three songs are all related to the sad history of Poland. Please explain further about the creative background to these songs.
Park Woon-hyung translated my first question into fluent Polish, upon which Gorecki stroked his face with his two hands, looked down at the table, and began to speak slowly.
"I believe you know well about the sorrowful history of Poland. Poland was regularly invaded, downtrodden, and abused. After Germany seized the southern part of Poland in 1772, Russia overran the eastern region, and Austria the southern region in 1793, and in 1795, the whole country was vanquished. In 1830, at the peak of the Romantic Movement in Europe, stimulated by the heat of the mass revolution movements which were taking place all over Europe, a mass uprising arose also in Poland. But it was a miserable failure, and the lives of the revolutionaries ended in exile, capital punishment and political asylum. It was forbidden to speak Polish, and the Polish culture went underground. As a result, religion became consolidated with the revolution, and suffering became an ideology. A strong Messianism emerged, and expressions like "holy Poland" and "the resurrection" became everyday phrases. Grief, famine, torture, and death were everywhere. But how could such misery have happened in Poland alone? The river of deep, deep sorrow has always flowed throughout the history of all mankind."
Sweeping up his white hair, he took one small swallow of juice.
"It was right here in Poland that the human catastrophe called the Second World War began. Although the Nazis could have easily seized Warsaw with their superior forces, they continued to attack and raid the city until it was completely devastated and reduced to rubble. Tens of thousands died victims to the brutal air raids, and mass killings and executions were rampant. No one can escape the memories of such a gruesome history. This is because things that remind us of this history are omnipresent. Do you by any chance know of the famous Polish play director, Jerzy Grotowski?"
Unexpectedly, Gorecki brought up the name of Grotowski, the very one to have lured Park Woon-hyung to Poland. My knowledge of Grotowski was too limited to answer yes, while my pride would not allow me to say no. Park Woon-hyung, who noticed the uncomfortable expression on my face, said something to Gorecki, who nodded in approval.
"I am very glad to hear that a Korean journalist knows well about Grotowski. One of his best-known works is called Acropolis. The setting of this work is the Auschwitz concentration camp."
Just then, Min Young-soo exploded a flashlight with his camera, and Gorecki grimaced. It was clear that he truly hated taking pictures.
"Creation is an act of love for freedom. And love is another expression for the sacred. Humans have always been deprived of love and thus have been unable to cease weeping. Grotowski pursued this sacredness through the tragedy of Auschwitz. Not far from here is the Auschwitz concentration camp. In my childhood, I grew up seeing the Gestapo concentration camps spread throughout this area. Read the writing carved into the wall by a young girl imprisoned in a concentration camp. She consoles her mother as she prays to the Mother Mary not to forsake them. In "The Lament of the Holy Cross" and the Polish folk song, you can feel the poignant grief of mothers who have lost their children. Their tears are the river of sadness. You may say that The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs is the sound of the river of sadness flowing."
¦¡But these are all events of the past. The world changes with every new day, and with these changes, new sorrows are born to oppress mankind. Do you not consider it to be a more meaningful task to express the sorrows of the present, rather than those of the past?
Upon hearing Park Woon-hyung's translation of my question, Gorecki smiled.
"You would be right if you could stop a river from flowing. But a river flows ceaselessly. This is because whatever has ceased to flow is no longer a river. This river, which has flowed from the past, continues to flow from the present into the future. Look at the civil war in Bosnia. Do you consider the wretched ordeal of killing and being killed to be a simple matter of race? No. It is a matter concerning all humankind, who subsist on the fat of desire. The sorrow of the past is the sorrow of both the present and the future. Only the form of the sorrow changes."
¦¡What is there for an artist to do as he stands on the banks of this river of sadness?
Gorecki fondled the corners of the table with his hand.
"He is a person who feels most acutely the punishment of those who have survived. The fact that one is alive is simultaneously a blessing as well as a punishment. Light can exist only if there is darkness. The relationship of blessing and punishment is analogous to that of light and darkness. But the artist is more sensitive to the punishment than the blessing. And he must withstand that punishment. For he who can no longer withstand is no longer an artist."
Gorecki asked for some water, and the waiter approached and carefully filled his empty glass with water.
"The river of sadness flows unceasingly among people, but there are those who are not even aware that such a river exists. An artist is a person who awakens those people to the existence of the river. An artist sees the river flow. An artist is someone who can hear. His ears hear the sound of the river flowing."
I continued to ask questions, which Gorecki answered diligently. After one and a half hours had passed since the interview began, Gorecki began looking at his watch. It was time to finish. At my question of whether there was anything else he wanted to add, he pondered for a while and began to speak, his expression heavy.
"There was a time when I fell into the mire of the avant-garde. We all live within that mire, the fear of which has blinded us. Luckily, I was able to escape from it. On this point, I consider myself to be a fortunate artist indeed. An artist is someone who finds light within darkness. That light can be found on the banks across the river of sadness. Now, I would like to ask you a question. How does one cross the river of sadness?"
At 3:20, we departed for Auschwitz in the taxi we had hired for the day.
"It seems like old man Gorecki and Woon-hyung have been communicating by mental telepathy."
I didn't understand what Kim Song-kyun meant and stared back blankly.
"The Grotowski play that Park Woon-hyung saw in the United States was Acropolis. He was mesmerized by that play...."
Kim Song-kyun stopped talking as he saw Park Woon-hyung scowling. Recalling that Park Woon-hyung's face had been grim throughout the interview with Gorecki, I felt annoyed. I was curious as to why he seemed so sullen, but since he was not talking, I could not ask.
The sky, which had been cloudless when we had departed from Katowice, gradually became darker, and raindrops began to fall as we reached Auschwitz.
"Every time I've come here, the weather has been bad, and today it is the same again."
Kim Song-kyun nodded in agreement to Min Young-soo's muttered comment and added, "It must be the ghosts."
I scoffed at the word ghosts. The taxi stopped at a train crossing. A train would pass by soon. I noticed a grave on the side of the road. It had been made out of white stone which had been sculpted into the shape of a cross, and under the small and gaunt figure of Jesus, there was a red flower.
"Auschwitz was originally built by the Nazis to hold the Polish political criminals who had participated in the Resistance Movement. When the first prisoners arrived, the words spoken by Karl Fritz, the chief warden of the prison guards, were significant. Jews had no right to live more than two weeks, priests more than one month, and the rest more than three months. After the German invasion of Russia, an immense number of war prisoners were sent to Auschwitz, and the holding capacity of the concentration camp had to be expanded accordingly. But later, when the Russian prisoners had all died, and there were no more huge numbers of incoming prisoners, the Nazis designated Auschwitz as the place to settle the issue of Jewish presence in Europe once and for all."
Just as Kim Song-kyun finished speaking, a train screamed past, and the taxi began to move again slowly.
The car reached Auschwitz concentration camp at 3:50. Several tourist buses stood parked in the vacant lot in front of the camp. After telling the taxi driver that we would return at 5:00, we left the taxi.
"I'd rather not go in." Park Woon-hyung spoke deliberately, with his eyes averted. He had kept silent all during the taxi ride. I asked him if he felt unwell.
"Not at all. It's just that I've been there so many times that I don't feel like going again."
"I'll stay with Woon-hyung. You can go with Kieslowski." Kim Song-kyun spoke goadingly as he indicated Min Young-soo.
"It is a wonder that Woon-hyung came even this far," Min Young-soo commented as we entered the red brick building called the service center, which offered all the necessary information concerning the concentration camp.
"He really hates Auschwitz. Most of the people who visit Poland want to come here. Every time, Woon-hyung makes excuses and does whatever he can to avoid coming here. With a little exaggeration, he avoids this place like his life depended on it. And when it's unavoidable, he waits behind alone at a far distance from the camp. But this time he's come right up to the gates, so that's something."
I could clearly remember the startled expression on Park Woon-hyung's face the night before in the underground bar of the Katowice Hotel when I had asked him about Auschwitz.
"Why does he dislike coming here so much?"
"Most of the people who have come to Auschwitz once or twice are reluctant to come ever again. The scenery is not so picturesque..."
"But it's a little peculiar to come all this way with a group and then stay behind alone."
"That's true. He does have a singular dislike for this place. I am curious as to why myself, but he never talks about it..."
"According to Kim Song-kyun, Park Woon-hyung came to Poland after watching a work by Grotowski. Is this true?"
"That is what I've heard. He had a very hard time when he first came to Poland. If others rehearsed for one hour, I think he must have practiced for ten. But this effort eventually put him on the stage. Ah, look at that photograph. The first time I saw that photograph, my heart sank."
He pointed to a black and white photograph of a pile of corpses tossed together in a place that looked like a dark, abyssmal cavern.
"What does that white light at the top of the picture remind you of?"
"It's so small and faint, it looks like a candlelight."
"That small light makes one use his imagination."
"What do you imagine?"
"It reminds me of someone praying. The figure of someone who has put her hands together in fervent prayer by the small, faint light. I imagine the figure of a young, weeping girl, and this overlaps with the scene of a small ball lying lost in the middle of some shrubs. It is the ball the girl has lost."
"That is the imagination of a movie director," I said, grinning.
About one and a half hours later, at 5:20, the taxi left Auschwitz and headed for Krakow. Krakow had been the capital of Poland for a long time before the capital moved to Warsaw, and the city was noted for having miraculously escaped any damage during the Second World War, thus maintaining its archaic beauty.
"When it was the capital of the most prosperous Polish monarchy, the Jagiello dynasty, Krakow was the center of Central European culture, together with Prague in Bohemia and Vienna in Austria. Therefore, to be living and breathing in Krakow means that you are living and breathing the tradition of the old monarchies of Poland. Symbols of that tradition, such as the cathedrals, statues, castles, and buildings, can be found everywhere. Of course, the bitter scars of history are also found here. By the way, did you see the movie, Schindler's List? The movie directed by that famous American director of commercial movies, Spielberg?" Turning around, Kim Song-kyun asked from the front seat.
"Yes, I've seen it. It was an interesting movie."
"The shooting location of that movie was Krakow."
"Ah, that's right. In the Jewish quarter of Krakow, Schindler..."
"That's right. Ever since the movie became a box-office hit, a sightseeing tour called the Schindler Tour has been a great success in Krakow. The tour takes the tourists who have come to visit the ghetto, otherwise known as the Jewish quarter, and guides them around the location spots which were in the movie to help them recall the story. Most of the scenes in the movie were shot on location. The tourists are mostly Americans and Germans, but there are quite a few West Europeans and Asians, too. The power of the silver screen is not to be underestimated."
"It is the power of Hollywood capitalism."
Kim Song-kyun smiled at Min Young-soo's brusque comment.
"He shudders at the thought of Hollywood movies. In a word, he considers them to be vulgar commercialism. But on the other hand, the wings of vulgar commercialism have taken flight all over the world. Whether we like it or not, we have to listen to the sound of those soaring wings."
After we arrived in Krakow, we sent back the hired taxi and ambled over to the Central Square, an indispensible tourist spot located in the center of the city. Having become accustomed to buildings being a somber gray, I felt as if I were finally in an ancient city of Europe when I saw the archaic splendour of Krakow. The shops and restaurants around the Square were filled with people. After we strolled around the area, we visited the gothic Saint Mary's Cathedral, the Jagilonski University that Copernicus had attended, and the Royal Bawel Castle located on the cliffs of the Vistula River. After drinking some wine at an open air cafe, it was time for us to catch our train back. The last train left for Warsaw at 8:15.
We left the Central Square and headed for Krakow Station. I glanced at Park Woon-hyung, who was trudging along. As always, he had remained silent in Krakow also. From time to time, he shook his head, as if something were tormenting him, and his tightly pursed lips were pale. His silence continued to bother me. He had been more thrilled than anyone when Gorecki had acceded to giving the interview. But as we had headed for Auschwitz, his face had clouded over with dark shadows, and his silence had begun. I had no way to find out the reason why.
The train left at exactly 8:15. It was dark outside the windows, and all of us remained silent. Even the light-hearted Kim Song-kyun was quiet. Shortly after the train conductor had checked our tickets and left, I opened a bottle of wine. I was thirsty, and the heavy silence was oppressive.
"How was Auschwitz?" Kim Song-kyun asked as he took a gulp of wine.
"Well..." My words faded out as I stared out the window into the darkness. Something appeared in the darkness. It was a crane, folded out of paper. A small, light paper crane.
There is a place in the concentration camp, Block 11, called the building of death, which Min Young-soo explained to me thus. The Nazis had crowded two thousand victims at a time into the basement gas chamber of that building and slaughtered them. When the gas called Cyklon B was released, the victims shrieked and clawed at the bars and the walls, tearing at their bleeding chests until they finally died. Next to the gas chamber was an incinerator for the dead bodies. But the corpses were not cremated right away. Their bones were ground into powder to be used as construction material, their skin was used to make lampshades, and the fat of their bodies to make soap.
My breath caught as I entered the incinerator. The dark and humid air clung to my skin.
"They say that seventy thousand were cremated in this spot alone," Min Young-soo said in a low voice, his forehead grimaced into a frown. The stench dug into my body. Though I couldn't describe it exactly, I knew it was the smell of death. The space of death, the stench of death. I leaned against the blackened wall. My two palms touched the wall. It felt cold and sticky. I shivered. Just then, something caught my eye. Surprisingly, it had a warm color. But the space underground had no color. Even the electric lights illuminating the darkness were gloomy and dark, like the feeling of the wall. Thinking it was an illusion, I closed my eyes for a moment and then opened them again. But it had not gone away, and the warm light was still streaming from it. I approached warily, step by step. They were paper cranes. On the black metal sheet which served as the incinerator, there were paper cranes folded out of red, blue, yellow, and green paper, sitting gingerly with their wings aspread.
"These cranes...What are they doing here?" I stammered my question.
"The tourists leave them here. As an expression of their wish for the eternal happiness of the deceased."
The paper cranes appeared for a moment in the darkness outside the window of the speeding train, and then disappeared.
"Why did they kill the Jews so persistently? Did they really believe that they could kill off an entire race of people if they did so?" I asked as I turned my eyes away from the darkness.
"Turn to any page in the history of humankind, and you will come across the blood spilled by mass genocide. Genocide has continued ceaselessly throughout the generations. But the genocide of Auschwitz was something unprecedented. This is because it was programmed according to an exact, methodical mechanism which selected thousands of victims every day, and proceeded to kill and burn them. It was a cold-blooded massacre, enacted not in the name of outrage or violent passion, but in the name of science. Therefore, some scholars insist that Auschwitz necessarily demands a reconsideration of the question, ¡®What kind of existence is the human being?' If this question is made on the premise of racial classifications, with the Germans as persecutors and Jews as victims, I don't think that we can get beyond the superficial."
Kim Song-kyun nodded in agreement to Min Young-soo's words.
"Isn't it possible to think of the Nazi genocide as an invasion of the sacred?"
"An invasion of the sacred?" I asked dubiously, my head aslant.
"The sacred is the domain of God. If we look back on history, when humans envied the place of God, blood flowed like a river. The only means through which a human can covet the place of God is power. Kings of ancient times were considered to be the descendants of God, and it was believed that the sons of God could do as they pleased with humans. The Mesapotamians thought that the commands of their king were divine, not unlike those of their God, Anu. The law of power decrees that the stronger God vanquish the weaker. War is the struggle to gain power. But the hunger for power is never appeased. The more power one is fed, the hungrier one becomes for it."
"You may think of him as a typical case of a ruler who has fallen victim to belief in the divine monarchy. The Jews believe that God made man. According to this belief, the only one which can cut the strings of creation is God himself. But Hitler, as the Nazi leader, thought that he could cut those strings of creation."
"That makes sense," said Kim Song-kyun, nodding in agreement.
"If that reasoning is correct, then there is nobody invading the sacred domain at present. That kind of tyrant has become practically extinct."
"I don't think so."
"No? Who in this day and age can wreak such an omniscient, omnipotent, God-like power?"
"By capital, you mean..."
"Do you know what the chief attribute of capital is?"
"It is movement. Ceaseless and perpetual movement. Then what is the goal of this movement? It is increase. And this increase is the desire for power as well as the law of survival. Power grows by swallowing up people, and capital grows by swallowing up profits. The fact stands that, like the fundamental law of physics, the faster the speed of movement, the larger the size of increase. People often say that the world has become smaller. This is the same as saying that the speed of the movement of capital has become faster. But as you well know, the movement of capital does not follow man, man follows the movement of capital. Within this movement of capital, there are, of course, precise mechanisms like Auschwitz at work. This is to say that all kinds of human intelligence are being used for the movement of capital."
"That's too complex for me," said Kim Song-kyun, licking his lips and handing his empty glass to Min Young-soo.
"Are you bored?"
"I've become accustomed to your long-winded speeches, but I thought Reporter Kim might find all this tedious..."
"I find it quite interesting. Really. I'm curious as to where the conversation will lead."
"Hearing you say so makes me rather...Well, then, I'll take you at your word and continue. Where were we..."
"You said that all kinds of human intelligence were being used for the movement of capital."
"Ah, yes. There are no limitations to the movement of capital. It will consume anything in the name of increase. It will not stop at the human body, nor its dreams, nor its soul. It devours everything in its way, like a huge pair of jaws."
"You mean that capital, through its repeated increase, has invaded the sacred domain of God."
"That's right. Man is but one link in a cyclical chain of being. I believe that this is the founding principle upon which God created man. Because it is only within this continuous, elaborate chain that life can achieve harmony and balance. But at one point, man began to rattle the chain of being. But it has been impossible for man, who is no more than a creation himself, to destroy that chain. Because that is the domain of God."
"I get the feeling that capital and man are two separate concepts as I listen to you."
"In some ways, yes. Capital is unable to devour the spirit of man whole. This becomes possible only after the spirit has been converted into something tangible. In other words, the spirit of man undergoes perpetual materialization because of capital."
"You make it sound as if the spirit of man is proceeding endlessly into the cavernous belly of capital. Now I know for sure why you hate Hollywood movies so much."
"As a result, I think that this new monster called capital, by destroying the links in the chain of being, has devoured the sacred and ascended to power. If Auschwitz showed us usurpation of the sacred in a condensed form of time and space, then we can think of capital as plunging a knife slowly and deeply into the flesh of the sacred all over the world."
"According to you, it sounds as if mankind is racing toward destruction."
"One never knows if God may save us."
"If God may save us?"
"Because the sacred is still alive and breathing all around us. I like to call it the sacred forest. I believe that the forest will never disappear as long as we desire it to exist. If unadulterated dreams and souls continue to breathe life into the sacred forest, and the sacred forest give us pure oxygen back in return, who knows? Maybe the sacred forest might triumph over the voracious desire of capital."
"You should fill the movies that you're going to make with that pure oxygen. But I wonder if he is listening to your eminent lecture. He hasn't even ventured one question."
Kim Song-kyun indicated to Park Woon-hyung, who was standing with his head leaning against the windowpane.
"If he's going to be so unsociable, then he should at least leave the liquor alone."
He was right. While we had been talking, Park Woon-hyung had continued to drink in silence.
The train reached Warsaw Central Station behind schedule at about 11:30. During that time, we had emptied four bottles of wine and two bottles of German brandy. It was not a small amount of liquor, so we were all quite drunk. But Park Woon-hyung, who had drunk the most, seemed completely sober except for the fact that his face looked haggard. His long silence troubled me, but I had known him for only one day, and moreover, his friends, who knew him much better than I did, were there, so I decided not to worry myself over him.
When we came out into the open square in front of the station, we stood in silence for a while. It was time for us to part, but the expression on the faces of the three men was bleak. What was the reason. Was it because of Auschwitz. Or was it because they did not want to part from their friends, whom they had not seen for so long. I decided that both reasons were plausible. They had not wanted to make the trip to Auschwitz. They had gone just because I had wanted to go. And they were probably acutely sensitive to the value of having friends who spoke their language in a foreign land.
"Let's go for another round." I spoke in a tone of forced joviality.
"You must be tired..." said Kim Song-kyun hesitantly, studying my expression.
"I can't sleep well when I'm only half-drunk."
Kim Song-kyun laughed loudly at my words and looked over at Min Young-soo and Park Woon-hyung, who were standing behind us. Min Young-soo nodded in compliance, while Park Young-soo stood with an inscrutable expression on his face.
"So, since three-fourths of our group have reached an agreement, let's go to a tavern."
"What do you mean, a tavern? You mistake Warsaw for the Choong-chung Province."
Kim Song-kyun grinned at Min Young-soo's comment and led the way.
The drinking establishment where Kim Song-kyun took us was very small. The decor was so simple that it appeared almost boorish, and the ceiling was so low that it felt as if I had entered an attic garret. At the station square, when Kim Song-kyun had suggested going to a tavern, I had simply thought of the term as a quaint expression, but once I saw the place with my own eyes, I knew why he had called it that. Perhaps because it was almost midnight, there were only a few customers, and by the way Kim Song-kyun had insisted we take a taxi and leave the downtown Warsaw area, I concluded he was a regular client.
And indeed, the old proprietor, who had been serving some customers, smiled widely when he saw Kim Song-kyun and gestured for us to wait. When he finished serving the table, he embraced Kim Song-kyun in his arms and said something rapidly in Polish, to which Kim Song-kyun replied in the same. I was strongly impressed by this man, who expressed his pleasure through the movements of his whole body.
"Do you know what the name of this tavern is?" Kim Song-kyun asked me, after the proprietor had disappeared into the kitchen, and we had taken our seats.
"I saw the sign as we came in but it wasn't in English..."
"It's called The Gypsy."
"The Gypsy...That's a wonderful name. Romantic, too."
"The owner of this place is a gypsy."
"Really? I guess gypsies have the right to own taverns, too."
"The nomadic wanderings of gypsies who sing and dance in the moonlike and in legends are a thing of the past. Of course, there are exceptions, but most gypsies have settled down. There are three reasons why I insisted on coming here. First, the prices are cheap. Second, you can listen to gypsy music. Third, and most importantly, we can drink here all night."
"So this is an all-night establishment."
"That is not so. Once it passes midnight, the owner closes up and goes home. But he leaves the key with me."
"Then how do you calculate the bill?"
"According to my good credit," said Kim Song-kyun, grinning widely. We decided that mixing drinks would not be a good idea and ordered some wine. A few moments later, the proprietor brought us the wine and poured each of us a glass. Kim Song-kyun gave me an especially long introduction, to which the owner laughed heartily and nodded his head. After he left, I asked Kim Song-kyun what he had said.
"I told him that you had come here all the way from Korea to hear his gypsy song."
I stared at him dumfounded, but Kim Song-kyun dismissed his untruth with a shrug.
"There were many gypsies among the victims of Auschwitz."
"It is a fact that the more significance a country places on the concept of a nation, the more it will detest gypsies. They are a group who have transcended concepts like nationalities or national boundaries. Gypsies are the only race without a history or country. In some ways, they are the most liberated people among all mankind. Therefore, the Nazis could not but abhor them. The only relationship that gypsies acknowledge among themselves is that between a mother and her son. Intrinsic to the word "race" is the predominant notion of the father, who propagates his seed. But in the gypsy community, the concept of a father is nonexistent. A community with no paternal ties. Doesn't that sound marvelously liberated? But this is intolerable in a regulated society. Because it is a community that does away with regulations."
The young couple who had been sitting in the corner finished paying their bill and left. Now, the tavern was empty except for us.
"When gypsies sing, they put all their heart into their song. They sing with all their soul. So much so that their mouths reek of the scent of blood."
Park Woon-hyung entered into the conversation for the first time. His speech was somewhat slow and garbled, perhaps because of the wine. I thought he was drinking too much but had decided not to interfere. I, too, had drunk much more than my usual amount, but strangely enough, was still thirsty for more.
"Have you ever smelled the scent of blood in your mouth?" Park Woon-hyung stared straight into my eyes as he questioned me.
"I don't know how to sing. I'm tone-deaf, so instead of smelling the scent of blood, I get the sensation of my mouth going dry."
"Aren't your novels your song?"
I was taken aback at this unanticipated comment. I had not mentioned to him that I wrote novels. I tried never to reveal that fact to anyone, irregardless of who he was, if he didn't know already. The truth was that I was strongly committed to concealing the fact. Why? I can't say for certain, but perhaps it was due to the nuisance. When people are told you are a novelist, most of them look at you in a different light, as if you were a celebrity. In my case, I found that public gaze most disconcerting. But now, Park Woon-hyung was asking me a question in a way that made me feel far more than disconcerted.
"Ah, I told him that you were a novelist. I heard from our mutual friend, the one who made the contact between you and myself. Along with the request that I give you my special attention."
"Ha, ha, there is no need for any special attention."
I dismissed Kim Song-kyun's words with a wave of my hand and laughed exaggeratedly. Just then, the proprietor went onto the round stage, holding a violin. We immediately quieted down and turned our attention to him. The stage was so small and narrow that it would have been difficult for three people to be on the stage at once. After he tuned his strings for a few moments, the proprietor bowed graciously. We applauded him, and he took his position and lifted his bow. The thin and delicate notes of the violin drifted in the wind like fluttering flower petals. As the notes rose higher, the music began to flow in waves of sweet pathos. Was it because of the wine, together with the exotic lyricism? My eyes filled with hot tears.
After a while, the music of the violin disappeared into the air, and the proprietor bowed just as he had when he had begun. We applauded until our hands ached. The man descended from the stage and said something to Kim Song-kyun. Kim Song-kyun's face showed an expression of regret, and he nodded.
"He says that he would like to stay, but that it is time for him to go home. He will leave the keys with me, and welcomes us to drink to our fill."
We shook hands in farewell, and the man hugged me with one arm and took firm grasp of my hand with his free hand. It was a warm hand. After the proprietor left, we drank in silence. Perhaps because of the lingering resonance left by the music, the expression on our faces was one of despondence.
"Making movies must be very interesting," I said to Min Young-soo as I lifted my glass to his.
"It is similar to writing novels in a sense, because movies have the same structure as language."
"Is that so?"
"Just as words connect together to make a sentence, making a movie is the art of connecting numerous cuts of film. In other words, the movie is a form of communication that can exist only through a grammatical arrangement. So the skill of understanding and analyzing a movie is not unlike the skill used to analyze language. The similitude between movies and language is fundamental. But compared to language, the history of the movie is very short. The first movie was made only a hundred or so years ago."
"That means that it has all the more potential."
"Yes, perhaps. But because of the distinctive characteristics of movies, we cannot say for certain. Artistic trends are the response of the spirit to changes in the world and the human desires which conform to those changes. Thus, trends themselves are the result of the passage of time. A flower needs ample time to blossom fully. And a fully-bloomed flower must necessarily fade according to the passage of time. But in the history of movies, there has been no prolonged passage of time. This is because changes in the trends of the movie world have not been caused by a response of the spirit to the changes in the modern world and the human desires which adapt to them, but have been manipulated by modern technology. As a result, all kinds of newfangled techniques have vanquished the spirit. What is worse is the fact that these techniques are closely connected to commercialism. The vulgar physiology of commercialism has overwhelmed the spirit of movies."
"Now I know why you hate Hollywood movies so much."
Min Young-soo laughed abashedly at my words.
"Don't think of my opinion as the general consensus. These are just my personal thoughts on movies."
The clock on the wall showed that it was past three. Wine bottles were rolling about, and there was no knowing their number. My head was buzzing, and my eyes were hazy. Park Woon-hyung stood up unsteadily. I thought he was going to the men's room, but he approached the round stage. He held a bottle of wine in his hand. He climbed laboriously onto the stage and stared down at us. His face was as white as paper.
"Gentlemen, you have heard of the poor theater." He spoke in the stilted tones of a show host. We stared back blankly at his curious behavior.
"It is an expression minted by the pioneer of Polish experimental theater, Jerzy Grotowski. You will discover an unusual meaning contained within this expression, a polar concept to the rich theater which exploits elaborate ornamentation. Grotowski said that the poverty and neediness mentioned in the Bible implies the denial of all material things. It is the act of removing the shroud which covers the soul, or of carving away the flesh to reveal the bare bones. Thus, everything is confession in the poor theater. This confession is the hidden pearl of the poor theater. Grotowski demanded that an actor discover the true pain within himself. He said that only after the discovery of this pain was it possible for a true dialogue to take place between actor and audience. Now, as an actor, I wish to open up a true dialogue with you gentlemen."
"Sometimes that fellow acts up like this when he gets drunk." Keeping an interested eye on the stage, Kim Song-kyun whispered to me as I sat nonplussed.
"Grotowski spoke. If you show me that you are human, I will show you God. What can I show you gentlemen? Now, I am an actor. An actor on the stage is literally reality itself. Inside the body of the actor lie hidden all the things of the world, and words are those things themselves, as well as the tool by which to extricate those things. The words of an actor make invisible things visible, and the unheard heard. They transcend time to interpret the pain of the world. They sculpt fantasy into reality and reality into fantasy."
The tone of Park Woon-hyung's voice had undergone a transformation. It had adopted a rhythm, like the sound of lapping waves, producing an exquisite resonance.
"The stage is a spring day in May. The sky is so blue it dazzles your eyes, and on the ground, flowers are blooming in profusion."
A spring day in May. Unconsciously, I repeated the words to myself. Motionless, Kim Song-kyun and Min Young-soo sat staring at the stage.
"On that spring day, a truck full of soldiers in their mottled uniforms races along. It passes the front gates of Chonnam University, Keum-nam Street, and the intercity bus terminal, and comes to a stop in front of the Asia Theater. The soldiers, who have taken off their berets and donned bulletproof helmets, get off the truck and fall into lines of four abreast. Their eyes are bloodshot, for they have not slept for days."
"What garbage is that fellow saying," Kim Song-kyun muttered to himself as he looked from Min Young-soo to the stage.
"The red of their eyes becomes deeper and darker. It is an omen. A cruel omen of fate. That omen squirms inside their bodies and awakens. As their heads begin to bubble and boil, something unidentifiable darts across their bodies. Their intestines twist and turn, and their blood snarls menacingly, like a sea in a storm. Their eyes flame up, and then die out again, and their scorched tongues stretch out limp, like rubber. Their seething souls scream to be released as they desperately hunt for a way out."
It was strange. People hear sounds with their ears. But I felt as if Park Woon-hyung's voice were touching my skin and not my ears. It touched my skin like a live, writhing creature.
"The stage is absolute chaos. It is filled with the sounds of flesh ripping apart and blood spattering, the sound of skulls cracking and bones breaking. The screams and moans. The earth opens her mouth and swallows the blood, and light dances in the center of this bedlam."
Wide furrows deepened in his forehead as he raised his eyebrows.
"In the dancing light, one man staggers forward. His hands are stained with blood. The stage becomes silent, and darkness slowly falls. The man recoils at the stench of blood everywhere. The scene overlaps with the face of a boy, who, with a dagger stuck deep into his chest, stares unbelievingly at the man and falls to the ground, limp as a reed."
He breathed deeply.
"I will not forget the sins of this people. When the day comes that the sun fall from the heavens in broad daylight, and the earth become shrouded in darkness, let all you know that it has been my will. The sound of lamentation shall be heard even on pilgrimage days, and the sound of all song shall become the sound of weeping."
Park Woon-hyung's voice had suddenly changed. It had transformed from a grievous, passionate tone to one that was as cold as frost, and the two voices were so different that it seemed as if there were two people on the stage.
"I made you hunger. Still, you did not return to me. I dried up your grain and made it rot. I destroyed your hills and your vineyards, and made the locusts devour your fig trees and olive trees. Still you did not return to me. As I did in Egypt, I sent you fearful diseases. I slaughtered your youth with swords, plundered your stables, and made your food stink with the stench of rotting carcasses. Still you did not return to me. Just as I destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, I felled your citadels and burnt you like pieces of burnt wood in a fire. Still, you, did, not, return, to, me."
He was trembling violently. My eyes were open wide in aghast. He was playing two roles at once. With his voice, he was playing the role of God, condemning mankind, but with his body, he was playing the part of mankind, trembling with fear under such condemnation.
"I think he's lost his senses," said Kim Song-kyun anxiously. Min Young-soo lifted his finger to his lips. It was a sign to leave Park Woon-hyung alone a little longer.
"I, Jehovah, condemn you. Because of the sins of Damascus, for those scores of accumulated sins, I will punish Damascus. I, Jehovah, condemn you. Because of the sins of Gaza, for those scores of accumulated sins, I will punish Gaza. I, Jehovah, condemn you. Because of the sins of Tyre, for those scores of accumulated sins, I will punish Tyre."
Light streamed from his bloodshot eyes. He clasped his hands together and hunched over. Bending his back over like a bow, he took on the shape of a round ball. His right arm slowly rose, and as it stopped aslant in the air, he abruptly raised his head, which had been buried between his knees. The gaping eyes and hanging mouth warped his face into an expression so bizarre that he was ghastly to behold. I shuddered. If that was acting, it was superb.
"Stop it!" Kim Song-kyun, who had been watching with bated breath, suddenly stood up and ran shouting onto the stage. "Others learn to forget, so why can't you? Forget it already. If you can't forget it, just hide it. I'm sick of watching your self-righteous pain."
Kim Song-kyun bellowed as he shook Park Woon-hyung by the throat. Park Woon-hyung's body shook limply, like a lifeless doll, his face as expressionless as a mask. Kim Song-kyun let go in disgust, and after falling down twice, Park Woon-hyung was finally able to stagger to his feet. It seemed too much for him to even stand there, and his body swayed unsteadily. He stumbled down from the stage, but he had not gone more than a few steps before his legs gave out, and he slumped forward. Startled, Min Young-soo and I rushed to him.
Drinking in silence, Kim Song-kyun stared at Park Woon-hyung, who was sleeping on the sofa. Park Woon-hyung had clasped his hands together on his chest and was sleeping with his mouth tightly shut. Min Young-soo had fallen into a deep sleep on the sofa opposite.
"Where were you, Reporter Yoo, when the Kwang-ju massacre happened?"
"I was in Seoul."
"That fellow was in Kwang-ju. He was one of the martial law soldiers. I think he killed several people, and he doesn't seem to be able to forget."
"I once watched him perform in a play in Sanok."
"Ah, it's a city on the border of Poland, about 80 kilometers from the Ukraine. Before the Second World War, Ukrainians, Polish and Jews lived together in Sanok. After the war broke out, most of the Jews were massacred, and many Polish died at the hands of the Ukrainians, who were instigated by Stalin and the German forces. After the war ended, the tables were turned, and numberless Ukrainians were killed by the Polish."
"It is a land of tragedy."
"A drama festival opened there, and since Woon-hyung's company was going to be participating, I went along to see the city. It was April and the weather was warm and bright, so it was very pleasant. What was the name of that play Woon-hyung was in..."
His forehead furrowed as he tried to remember.
"I can't remember. Anyway, it was quite a perplexing work. I couldn't understand what the actors were saying very well, so that made it all the more difficult for me to comprehend the play. I wasn't yet familiar with the Polish language at that time, and the lines of the play were so difficult to understand, that even though I strained to listen, I missed quite a bit. Woon-hyung's character was on an operating table, and, under the pretense of a medical exam, was being tortured to death by some characters wearing uniforms, and the reason he was undergoing such pain was for the salvation of the world. In other words, the theme of the work was that the world could be saved through the sufferings of one individual. So the greater the pain, the deeper the salvation. The play, from start to finish, was a series of grim voices, stifled moans of pain, weeping, and ghastly screams. Ah, would you like another drink?"
I nodded in agreement.
"Reporter Yoo, you are quite a drinker."
"No, that's not so. I would have been knocked out quite a long time ago ordinarily."
Smiling at my words, he lifted a bottle of wine.
"The play ran for about forty-five or fifty minutes, which is the time it takes for the Catholic eucharist. I haven't seen many plays, but never did I see one more upsetting or hideous. Anyway, when the play ended, I went backstage to meet Woon-hyung, but something was wrong. The company members were all huddled into a circle, and a few of them were urgently massaging Woon-hyung's half-naked body. When I asked someone what had happened, they told me that Woon-hyung wouldn't wake up. I didn't understand, so I just stood there. I finally understood what was happening after I heard the explanation several times. The play had ended with the death of Woon-hyung's character, but he had failed to wake up after the curtain had fallen. Thinking that something was wrong, the other actors had gone to him and found his body stiff as a board, so they thought he had really died. The doctor who had been called in diagnosed it as hysterical paralysis."
"Hysterical paralysis is a kind of neurosis..."
"That's right. It is a mental illness in which a deep-seated longing becomes transferred to the body. Woon-hyung has never mentioned it, but I wonder if he didn't really desire to die at the hands of another in the play. So, in other words, he would die a death of salvation for his own act of killing. We've finished the bottle. Shall I open another?"
"No more for me. I think I should get some sleep."
After I emptied my glass, I staggered over to an empty sofa.
Park Woon-hyung entered the doors of the cafe a little early for our appointment. I greeted him with a warm smile. That morning, after long hesitation, I had called him and told him that I wanted to meet with him. I would be leaving Poland the next day, so that day was the only chance I had to meet him. Park Woon-hyung had accepted my invitation after a short silence.
"Do you want to hear about what happened in Kwang-ju?"
About the time we were finishing off our second bottle of wine, Park Woon-hyung posed this question at me, staring straight into my eyes. I nodded my head.
"So that you can write a novel?"
This was an unanticipated question.
"No, I didn't even think about it..." I laughed abashedly and lifted my glass to my lips.
"You become quite embarrassed every time we mention the subject of novels. Why is that?"
"Well, I don't..."
"Have you ever written a novel about the Kwang-ju incident?"
I nodded once again.
"Weren't you ashamed?" He asked me without mincing his words.
"What do you mean by ashamed?"
"I mean about the fact that you exploited it as a tool for your novel."
I was at a complete loss for words. Biting my lip, I looked down at the table for a few moments, then lifted my head.
"Truth has no shape or form. I believe that art is the task of giving form to the truth. The same goes for novels. The tools of a novel can be seen as a bridge reaching towards a tangible form of the truth. To use Kwang-ju as such a tool means that Kwang-ju has become a bridge to reach that tangible form of the truth. The feeling of shame does not fit into any of this. Shame becomes an issue only when the bridge called Kwang-ju is built for some other reason than to connect with a form of the truth."
"What is the truth?" His questions were becoming increasingly enigmatic.
"It may be a standard according to which people can live their lives with dignity. Perhaps we can say that it is the spirit, untainted with falsehood..."
I sounded very unconvincing. To be truthful, I didn't know if I could answer his question at all. When I had deemed something as the truth, other people had shaken their heads, and when I had thought something was not the truth, others had praised it effusively as such. Finding the truth within a novel was an inscrutable maze indeed.
Park Woon-hyung emptied his glass in silence. His face was shrouded in dark shadows. I recalled the tormented expression on his face as he had stood on the round stage of the tavern Gypsy.
"It seems that the memory of Kwang-ju is very painful to you. You, too, are a victim of history."
Upon my words, Park Woon-hyung lifted his head and stared unflinchingly at me.
"You seem to misunderstand."
"I have not misunderstood. Wasn't your hysterical paralysis on that stage in Sanok the result of your guilty conscience?"
His mouth curled into a wry smile at my words.
"You make me laugh. Do you know how that thing called truth, which you novelists all fly like a flag before you, appears to me? It is a stuffed animal. A dry and shrivelled stuffed animal. I see you do not understand me. What do you novelists have to say about Kwang-ju? It's so painfully obvious. The meaning of the blood shed by the dead, their tears, the anguish of the survivors, and the cruelty and nightmare and guilt of the persecutors, etc., etc. There is one thing that has to be added. That the persecutors were also victims. Why? Because they were manipulated by those blinded with power. Is the truth so simple? If the truth were so evident, then the world would indeed be a much more lucid place in which to live."
I was taken aback by the abrupt change in Park Woon-hyung's voice, which had suddenly taken on a tone of callousness.
"Perhaps you imagine me thus? That I had thought I was simply pursuing my line of duty as a riot policeman, but had later come to realize that I had been part of a treacherous massacre. Intestines spilling out of split bellies, corpses with crushed skulls, red blood staining your hands. That the memories of that massacre, that the stench of that blood cannot be erased from my mind by the passage of time. That I dream constantly of becoming a victim myself in order to relieve myself of the weight of a murderer's guilt. That by wishing to become the killed rather than the killer, to become the cold body lying on the asphalt rather than him holding the gun and staring down at that corpse, that I wish to escape from the mire of my guilt. That when I played the role of the persecuted on the stage at Sanok, my longing to be transformed into the victim made me fall into a temporary state of hysterical paralysis. Am I wrong?"
I had no choice but to nod in agreement.
"You will undoubtedly write your novels along those lines. And of course, that might be the truth. But it is not the truth in my eyes. To me, Kwang-ju is the source of life. Do you understand my meaning?"
I shook my head as I looked into his dimly-glazed eyes.
"In May of 1980, I went to Kwang-ju as a soldier of the riot troops and found myself in the midst of hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. The oppressors were evil, and the victims were good. However, time played its magic. Those who held the swords in their hands conveniently rewrote this historical fact. Caught in the throes of an overpowering guilt, I wandered around the world, like a hollow spectre. Then I went to America. After spending a few years at a drama school in New York, I went on stage for the first time in a run-down warehouse theater. But I was a spectre on the stage, too. Then one day I saw a play by Grotowski. Even now, I cannot forget the passion that moved me then."
He closed his eyes, as if to savor the memory.
"The theatre had been fixed to look like a vacant workshop, and the walls had been painted black. There was a square platform in the middle of the stage, and on that platform were a headless doll, a wagon, and a pile of metal debris. The theatre remained eerily quiet while the audience took their seats. Just as that silence was becoming too oppressive and tedious, the actors walked onto the stage. Hollow eyes, frozen smiles, gaunt cheeks. Their faces were the masks of death. These masks of death hung the pieces of metal debris onto a vertically suspended electrical wire and began hammering away. They were building the Acropolis. The Acropolis. It was a crematorium. While it was being built, there flowed the music of mournful Slavic songs, Latin hymns and Hebrew lamentations."
He whispered darkly, as if he were on the stage.
"As I watched that poor drama, I was overcome with the desire to leap onto the stage. Why was that? Was it the product of my desire to rid myself of the guilt of Kwang-ju by immersing myself into the human misery that moaned amidst the barbarism and cruelty of Auschwitz? That is what you think, Reporter Yoo. I, too, thought so in the beginning. But I soon learned that it was not so."
The waiter, who had noticed that our bottles were empty, approached and asked us if we desired more. Park Woon-hyung nodded yes.
"Plays are not an imitation of the world. They jolt, penetrate and transcend the world, thereby awakening the source of life. So to an actor, the stage is not an imaginary world. It is a world in which the soul burns up in flames of gold, a world which gasps and surges with passion. The actor must be able withstand such a world. If he cannot, the world will open its mouth and swallow him. That is the worst imaginable fate for an actor. Do you understand what it means to be able to withstand upon the stage?"
I shook my head no.
"An actor must feel the pain of his eyes being gouged as he plays the role of Oedipus, who blinded himself as he mourned his ill-fated destiny. To bear this pain is to be able to withstand upon the stage. The more real the feeling, the more readily the world accepts the actor. But if the pain is just pasted onto the skin of his face, then he is no longer Oedipus, and the world rejects him accordingly. I was a spectre in New York. I had no strength to withstand upon the stage. I wanted so desperately to have this strength. But it does not come spontaneously. The stage opened its mouth to swallow me, and I could do nothing to resist. It was then that I saw Grotowski's play. The moment I saw that play, I found my strength. No, it was not me, but an instinct that wanted so desperately to possess that strength that discovered it. That instinct thrust me into the world of Grotowski's play, which brought me to Poland."
"I'm not sure I understand," I sighed resignedly.
"You will understand if you listen a bit longer. One bleak fall day, when the sky was covered with murky clouds, I was performing a Grotowski play on stage with my fellow actors. In the story, three men in uniforms were torturing a man tied down to a metal cot. I was one of the men in uniform. The man being tortured was either Poland, bleeding from the wounds of history, or a symbol for the suffering of the Catholics."
I recalled the stage at Sanok, where Park Woon-hyung had his bout of hysterical paralysis.
"When you speak of the suffering of the Catholics, are you talking about the crucifixion?"
"You can say that. The play was a Polish romanticist drama, which illustrated that salvation involves the penitence of the individual. The sufferer was a man of pure spirit who believed he could cut the strings of evil by sacrificing himself. The men in uniform humiliate, abuse and torture him until they finally kill him. The stage lighting remains fixed on the face of the sufferer. The real theme of the play can be discovered in the facial performance of the actor, who transforms his pain into the divine. The actor fills the stage with the moans and screams of his pain, which then become the sound of silence. This silence means that by embracing the pain, he had triumphed over it, therefore transcending it. But as the sounds of pain reached a climax, I found something strange was happening to me."
He shivered, as if he were cold. His face froze, like stone. "I felt something moving deep within me. Every time it squirmed, my whole body shuddered. It rose within me, thrashing about like an animal. And then it grasped my soul. Just at that moment, a long-forgotten memory rose in my consciousness. Have you ever stabbed anyone with a knife?"
Taken aback by his sudden question, I shook my head.
"In Kwang-ju, I...I did just so. When my knife sank into the body, I could feel the quivering convulsions of life in my hand through the blade. How can I describe those convulsions. Perhaps as a movement into which all the energy of life has been compressed. But the important thing is that I was holding the life of one human being in my hand, in this small hand. Just as if it were something tangible. It was not hard, like a rock. It was fragile, like an egg. Think about it. To hold the life of someone just like yourself in your hands...It was...it was an unimaginable euphoria."
His right hand curled up like a claw on the table, and the veins stood out blue on the back of his hand.
"Something like a hot flame of fire gushed up from deep within my heart. Just as I held a life in my hand, it grasped my soul. Then my soul flowed away, like water. As it flowed, it drenched my whole body, and I felt the sensation of floating on top of water. It was euphoria, it was serenity."
He closed his eyes. His cheeks were flushed, and his lips had parted. I shuddered. For the first time, I felt fearful of him.
"Finally, I realized that I had forgotten that feeling. Why had I buried it so deeply in my memory? I wonder if it wasn't the repression that psychologists talk about. The instinctual act of repressing any memory that causes or recalls pain in order to escape that pain."
"But you said the memory was euphoric," I replied tersely.
"It was a feeling of joy that cannot be morally forgiven. Furthermore, it was an act of barbaric violence. The blade of guilt is sharp and pointed. The armor with which I defended myself from this blade was oblivion."
"And you are saying that you took off that armor on the stage."
"Yes. From that moment, I completely forgot that I was standing on a stage and acting in a play. When the play ended, I was even complimented for my exceptional acting by a director who is notorious for his parsimony with praise. From then on, every time I stood on the stage, I set out in hot pursuit of that bloody euphoria. When I play the role of a killer, that euphoria places a perfect mask upon my face."
"Then it must be difficult for you to act the role of the victim well."
"That is not so," he said, shaking his head in disagreement.
"It is the same for acting the role of the pained or the killed. Do you know why? It is because the poor theater always imbues pain with meaning. At the heart of this meaning lies the transcendence of pain, in other words, euphoria. The climax of pain is death, and the climax of death is ecstasy. That ecstasy yearns for a state of death. Now do you understand my meaning? Why I wanted to leap onto the stage the moment I saw that Grotowski play in New York. It was because of the strength. The strength to withstand upon the stage. Grotowski's play made me realize that I had such strength inside myself. But the source of that strength was Kwang-ju. After I realized this, my acting improved day by day, until finally I became a lead actor."
"That's amazing," I murmured.
"The stage is a symbol of the world. The actor reveals that symbol through his body. The civilized world puts clothes upon people so that they appear cultivated, but the stage removes these clothes. In the eyes of civilization, the actor is a cursed existence."
He stroked his gaunt face with his two hands. His eyes stared vacantly into the air.
"When a play is over, and I come down off the stage, I can feel a hollowness within me. It is the feeling that everything inside me has been drained away and only the skin remains. At those times, I am powerless to do anything. I just sit or sleep. Then, as time goes by, I become replenished again..."
"What is your life like now? I mean, are you happy, or unhappy..." My face blushed at the puerility of my question, even as I asked it.
"Well..." He smiled faintly. "There is a blind power which controls the form of all objects. If that is true of objects, then it is all the more so of humans. There is a power which controls that form of existence called humankind, an invisible power which creates destiny. Humans do not possess the strength to withstand that power. I am imprisoned within the grip of that destiny. I can clearly feel the strength of that unrelenting hand. Even if I were unhappy, there would still be no way for me to escape that hand of fate. That is the only conclusion that I can offer about fate."
He prepared to leave.
"Why do you dislike going to Auschwitz so much?" I brought up something that had been bothering me. He had talked extensively, but still my curiosity had not been appeased.
"Did it seem so to you?" Instead of answering, he posed another question at me.
"When I asked you the way to Auschwitz in the Katowice Hotel, you were very startled. After that, you became very depressed, and then...even when we got to Auschwitz, you refused to go in. Of course, Kim Song-kyun also did not go with us, but that was because of you. And according to Min Young-soo..."
"You don't have to say any more." Park Woon-hyung raised his hand and stopped me from continuing. "Don't you feel any fear?"
"What do you mean by fear?"
"Fear about yourself."
"Fear about what in yourself?"
"Fear about the unknowable."
"Doesn't everyone feel a little bit of that fear?"
"Sometimes I am consumed by the question of how deeply people can look into themselves. An actor upon the stage is able to see more deeply into himself than other people can. Because it is impossible to act without looking within oneself. Just as a doctor opens up the abdomen of a patient and looks into his organs, the actor must open up his insides and look within with a cool, discerning eye. He must see the life hidden deep within, the immense, immeasurable sea of energy. As he looks in, he comes to realize, both with fear and pain, the insignificance of this civilized world created by mankind, how precarious it is, like a house built upon the sand. At one point, Auschwitz..."
He closed his eyes. His thin and delicate eyelashes trembled faintly.
"I discovered that Auschwitz was similar to my own insides. The barren landscape, dim lights, stillness of death. But when cruel destiny awakens, when it writhes and comes alive, Auschwitz opens its enormous jaws. I, I am afraid of myself."
With those last words, Park Woon hyung stood up. Outside, the fog was thick. I offered him my hand. His hand was as cold as ice. Just as he turned to go, I remembered that I had forgotten to ask him something that had bothered me deeply.
"Ah, just a moment."
He stopped in his tracks and turned around at the urgency of my voice.
"What do you think about love? I mean..." I felt embarrassed after the words tumbled out, but there was nothing more that I could add.
"I believe the answer to that question is the task of your novels. Their focus will be on the struggle between the power of love and the power of fate. Which do you think will win? Most authors side with the power of love."
A thin, threadlike smile hovered faintly about his lips.
"That choice may be the prime merit of the imagination, since so many people find consolation in it. Why do you think the imagination of so many novelists opt for the victory of love? Look at that misty fog. The fog flows in and out among people, but people cannot hold onto that fog. But novelists can grasp it. With their imaginations. Gorecki said that there is a light which shines across the river of sadness. He asked us if we knew how to cross that river. There are two ways to cross the river. You can ride a boat, or you can become the river. Most writers take the boat. The small, light, swift boat of the imagination."
He turned and disappeared into the fog. As the soft fog enveloped him, I stood staring into the direction he had vanished. A faint sound came to my ears. It was the low sound of a stringed instrument. And with that sound flowed a song of deep sadness, like the waters of a river.
Bird of God which sings so beautifully
Sing a song for my child
Little flower of God
So that my child can sleep in happiness