[Viewpoint]Seize the dayDo you know about Bloomsday? Bloomsday is a commemoration observed annually on June 16 in Dublin, Ireland. On Bloomsday, which derives from Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of “Ulysses,” a novel by James Joyce, a lot of people take part in such events as retracing Bloom’s route around Dublin via landmark places such as Davy Byme’s pub or having a lunch of a glass of burgundy and a Gorgonzola sandwich or a pint of Guinness in the afternoon, just as Bloom did. And the public broadcasting station of Dublin broadcasts marathon readings of the entire novel, lasting up to 30 hours, starting early in the morning on that day.
To the eyes of a stranger, they must be very strange things to see.
But if one realizes that “Ulysses” is a novel that depicts what happened in less than 19 hours, from 8 a.m. on the morning of June 16 until 2:30 a.m. the next morning in Dublin, in a total of 250,000 words, one will understand the meaning of Bloomsday.
It is about the greatness of a day, into which so many things can be compressed.
While it contains 800 pages in the English edition, a Korean edition with footnotes holds more than 1,300 pages. It is quite voluminous.
Reading “Ulysses,” one realizes how great and immense a day is ― that is, 24 hours, 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds ― and one starts to admire the way such a great many things can be contained and compressed into one day.
When I was a freshman in high school, I read “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” written by a Russian dissident writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
I recall that I was greatly impressed at that time by the fact that one could write a full-length novel about things that happened during just one day at a forced labor and concentration camp in the Soviet Union.
After all, the life of a person, or even just one day, can give birth to a voluminous novel.
I am now deeply moved at the realization that one day described in “Ulysses” could be an entire life’s work, the reason for existence of a Korean scholar.
Kim Chong-keon, a professor of English literature at Korea University, first read “Ulysses” when he was a graduate student at Seoul National University.
Since then, he has devoted his whole life to translating the novel. He translated and published the first Korean version of “Ulysses” in 1968.
In 1988, 20 years later, he published the revised version.
This year, 19 years after the revised version was published, he published a third version.
In fact, he has devoted his entire life to translating “Ulysses” into Korean and revising the translation.
In a sense, he has exchanged his lifetime for the single day described in “Ulysses.”
It is surprising to find that a retired university professor has such a strong academic zeal.
At the same time, I feel overwhelmed by the great potential of one day.
One day is such precious time. The master’s quarters of the traditional Korean house of Kee Se-hoon, a lawyer and the 13th descendant of Gobong Kee Dae-seung, a Joseon Dynasty scholar, is called Aeildang, or the house for love of a day.
If you sit on the wooden floor of the Aeildang, you will find it so pleasant that you will regret that a day passes by so fast.
I wonder whether the name of the house, Aeildang, also has a hidden meaning: regretting the passage of a day that gave us such beautiful natural scenery.
But we should not stop at regretting the passage of a precious day. What is really important is turning a precious single day into a great day.
Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery and today is a gift.”
She is right; although we cannot predict what will happen tomorrow, it is manifest that today is a gift to us. The task left to all of us is to make today, which is a gift, the most valuable day of a lifetime.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong