Author:: Eunjin Jang. Translated by Yewon Jung
I knew that this book would be good but I never thought it would be one of the best books I have read in a long while.
It’s premise is simple. A young man in some part of Korea goes from motel to motel each day with his dog Wajo. Every day he writes a letter to one of the 700+ people he has encountered in this endless travel for 3 years.
The way he observes life is almost prophetic. This book was philosophical. Yet never more than a simple tale of young boy trying to find his place in this world.
I cannot recommend it enough. I think I might make this the one book I gift to as many people as possible.
Sometimes I send out a letter called 398.
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I left home with an MP3 player and a novel in an old backpack.And with Wajo.
Motels are secretive.And sometimes-no, often-no, almost always, they are suggestive.
According to a motel proprietor, most people use a motel as a "place of rest," or in other words, a place in which to have sex, and think of it as such. I used to think so too, though I've never been to a motel with a woman. But now, I had become, like them, a person who stops now and then to rest at a motel. The important thing is that I just rest. By "rest," I mean staying the night and taking a break. Sleeping, pure and simple.
As you've probably guessed, I'm a traveler who goes from motel to motel.
I had to give up or set aside many things to come on this journey: home, family, friends, a job, and love. In the first place, this journey wasn't meant as a means to gain something. I embarked upon the journey to rid myself of things, and it could only really begin when I did so. Still, there's probably a bit of something I hope to have gained by the end of the journey. If there is, it's probably something like quiet stability. It's a simple desire for me.
To be honest, I think you should gain at least one thing from a long journey. If there was nothing to be gained, I'd feel wronged, and the people who have blabbed on about traveling in all those books, and urged others to travel, would feel ashamed. I'm not saying, however, that I began my journey after reading their books on travel.
Written words are less extravagant than photographs and souvenirs, and they are serious and contemplative. Words penned while traveling do not lie; they're not for showing off, but for making you on, and take care of, yourself. I dare say that in life, it is when we travel that our minds and hearts are the most open. It's a time when reflect on, we think more than at any other time in our lives. We may even think of something that we would never have thought of in all our lives. And so, it would be the loss or the mistake of a lifetime not to write down in words those thoughts which may never have occurred to us. You can always go back and take pictures, and buy as many souvenirs as you want. But the thoughts that come to you while you travel will not come back. When you go back, the feelings and sensations you have will no longer be the ones you had before.
Letters, in other words, are like journal entries to me. The only difference is that the day does not stay with me, but is sent to someone else. Journals are monopolized, but letters are shared. Journals are kept by one person alone, but letters are kept by two or more people. I began to obsess over letters when I became acutely aware of the notion of "two." While traveling, you grow even more aware of the notion. Perhaps that's why I began my journey.
if you want to know about someone else's desires, you should have them pack a suitcase. Or take a peek into their suitcase. Someone who packs his bag with all kinds of stuff ends up suffering from just that much fatigue and stress, even while traveling. The weight of the bag alone will guarantee that. The trip, intended as a way to unburden yourself, suddenly becomes a burden in itself. People who care about what other people think of them, like my sister, can never go on a trip.
From the adjacent room comes the sound of a woman moaning. An awkward feeling hovers between the woman and me. At times like this, I wonder why the act of love was created to be accompanied by noise. Couldn't the human body have been made more pliable, so that the intimate act could be undertaken in silence? I feel as if the creaking noise is causing cracks between us. I wish I could go next door and oil up the couple's bodies.
I'm well aware, of course, that there's no pleasure without pain.Perhaps it's noise that allows pain to turn into pleasure, and pleasure into pain.
She once said to me, "Do know that people look their you sexiest not when they've taken off their clothes, but when they're concentrating on their work?"
"You look sexy. When you deliver letters."
I couldn't really understand what she was saying. A postman could look sexy? But in my heart, I thanked my mother, thinking that I had the greatest job ever. Around that time, I was becoming louder and more talkative at home.
"Even a person with ninety-nine rooms sleeps in only one room. And even in that room, the maximum space he requires is only as big as his own body. The size of a coffin. A big room only makes you greedy. Because you keep making frantic efforts to fill it with this and that. Death? When your room is small, you become familiar with death, and are no longer afraid of it,"
367 said that the most pathetic person in the world was someone who worried that he would die without having spent all the money he had. An even more pathetic person, he said, was someone who had a lot of money but ended his own life without having spent it all.
Pain has come to an end for those who died, and has begun anew for those who remain alive. I don't know which is worse.
I leave the mailbox behind and push the gate open with my fingertips. The gate, unlocked, creaks open. I step in quietly like a thief. Then I turn around and take a look beyond the gate, which I've just stepped through. Three years ago, my journey began with me stepping through that gate, and now, it comes to an end with me stepping through it again. Why does it feel as if the boundaries of the beginning and the end are so far apart, when in fact, they're much too close together. The sense of distance probably comes from the human habit of separating and classifying and distinguishing, which sets the human heart at ease. I turn around, trying to cross the boundaries, and walk past the long yard toward the front door. I pull the door handle. The door, unlocked as expected, opens quietly with a rusty sound.
The house receives me.
Life is bearable when have someone to write, and someone life just writing you who writes you back. Even if it's just one person.