Uit:The Poet (Vertaald doorBrother Anthony en Chung Chong-hwa)
“Perhaps we ought to begin this investigation into the deviations of his life by evoking the problem of human memory. In his later years, summing up the whole course of his existence in a long lyric, he wrote the following lines:
As my hair grew longer,
my fortunes travelled a rough road:
he family line in ruins
the blue sea a mulberry grove.
Later readers have not usually considered those lines to be the transposition into poetry of any actual experience. At most they have assumed that they were inspired by some childhood event he learned about in his adult years, a pseudo-memory as it were, an analogy fabricated to harmonize with the assumed course of his life’s history.
Such theories may satisfy those who prefer an entertaining folk-tale to the actual details of a man’s real life. For them, it is unthinkable that he might have retained any actual memories of his family or origins before that fateful moment, so often chronicled, when he won first prize in a rural poetry-contest at the age of nineteen. That way the legend could be given a dramatic and really effective starting-point.
Unfortunately, the realities of life rarely if ever correspond to the demands of such fabulations. Generally received opinion notwithstanding, his memory actually stretched much further back into the past than is normally the case.
In particular, even when his life was almost done, at the end when he was weary and alone, he could recall the events of a certain evening late in the year in which he turned four as vividly as if they were just then happening before his eyes: that fateful night when his life was fundamentally transformed, as if the blue sea had indeed suddenly been turned into a mulberry grove.
He was only a child, of course, but during the last few days he had become vaguely aware of an extraordinary atmosphere brooding over the house.
The servants who had until then filled their home with a constant presence seemed visibly to have diminished in number, while those who remained no longer worked but stood in corners endlessly whispering together about something.”
Yi Mun-yol (Yongyang, 18 mei 1948)