[Viewpoint] A novelist loses her way

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[Viewpoint] A novelist loses her way

A fiction writer has free reign in the mundane world to wander into the realm of the soul. Readers are invited to accompany these authors. In life, we are not completely content with food and other material comforts alone. We choose to amuse or detract or delude ourselves in the world of fiction. A novelist is our witty and wise guide in our trips to the world of the soul. Our perceptions and sensibilities can be awakened and molded by the worlds that writers create.

Cuba is a poor country that has long been under dictatorial rule by Fidel Castro. The roads and houses are worn down, and the people’s lives are threadbare and haggard. Yet many travel to the country in their imaginations through Earnest Hemingway’s books. The American author lived on and off in Cuba for 20 years, fishing and writing “The Old Man and the Sea.” Tourists cannot leave Cuba without drinking Hemingway’s favorite shots of rum.

Haruki Murakami is one of the most popular Japanese writers on the international stage - and among Koreans, too. One fan wrote on her blog that the Japanese writer was one of the strongest influences in her life when she was in her 20s. She longed to travel to Japan because of his work. She went on a road trip through Japanese provinces with her mother and sister after her father died. She and her family cried in the backseat of a bus in the memory of their father. Their souls were reunited with their father’s under the magical influence of the author.

Most people have one writer to turn to for comfort or wisdom in their moments of pain and loneliness. Gong Ji-young is among the most popular female writers in the country. Her books are bestsellers. Her tweets are followed by over 200,000 people. Her books have been adapted into movies, from “Go Alone Like a Rhino’s Horn” to the latest “Dogani,” (“The Crucible”) which became a box office hit. With her outspoken and critical works, she has been an influential mentor and guide in many soul searches.

But Gong may be undergoing a crisis in her own soul. She veered from the track of common sense and intelligence when she attacked famous diva Insooni and figure skater Kim Yu-na for their appearances on newly launched broadcasting stations. She tweeted that Insooni has no sense and also criticized Kim.

Of the four new general broadcasting channels, three are run by major newspapers - the JoongAng Ilbo, Dong-A Ilbo and Chosun Ilbo. Gong has recently become a celebrity among liberal forces. She attacks the three papers as being right-wing and says their entry into the TV business is retrogressive. Anyone who helps their business is therefore at fault. She was particularly upset at Kim’s appearance on TV Chosun.

But Gong appears to have a selective memory. She has contributed numerous columns to the three papers and was frequently interviewed by them. For the Chosun Ilbo, she wrote a regular column. She published her 2006 novel “My Happy Home” in serial form in the JoongAng Ilbo. The JoongAng Ilbo showed a sculpture she received from a prisoner sentenced to death at a charity flee market sponsored by the newspaper. She and a JoongAng Ilbo reporter went on a trip in search of good food in South Jeolla. She has been a literary friend to the paper.

Gong claims the situation in 2006 was different under the government of President Roh Moo-hyun. But a newspaper is the same no matter who is president. The JoongAng Ilbo was no less conservative then. In fact, the paper was fiercely critical of the liberal Roh government.

What is more worrisome than Gong’s double standard is her approach to current issues. She appears to suffer from an extreme abhorrence of people who hold beliefs different from her own. Entertainers and celebrities are free to engage in social events regardless of the a sponsor’s particular ideology, and it is irresponsible for a celebrity to publicly attack another for doing just that.

Gong may have delusions of grandeur following the tremendous impact of the film adaption of her book “Dogani.” In the past, she went into a self-imposed exile for five years to distance herself from social noise and attention. Where has her past modesty and integrity gone? She must escape from the pit of illusory, vulgar stardom. There are many lost souls out there who still need and long for her literary guidance and illumination.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Kim Jin
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