Opening Lines to Yi Kwang-su's The Soil
Yesterday, I noted that a couple of translations done by my wife and me are being published by Dalkey Archive Books, so for readers with interest, here is our translation of the opening lines to Yi Kwang-su's novel The Soil:
After returning from the night school where he taught, Heo Sung lay down, resting his neck upon his schoolbag and lacing his fingers behind his head to form a pillow. Lying still, he could hear mosquitoes buzzing to and fro as they tried to get around the mosquito-repellent smoke. Now that the seventh month of the lunar calendar was half past, the wind felt a bit cool after nightfall.The novel opens in a slow, somewhat understated manner and gradually builds in intensity towards tragedy that wants to resolve itself in a happy ending of Dickensian proportions . . .
For a couple of years, Heo Sung had lived in Seoul with little possibility of hearing the mosquitoes' buzz. In his hometown, even listening to them again pleased him.
"How tall and beautiful Yu Sun has become," Heo Sung murmured to himself. Her image appeared before him, healthy and strong with gently rounded features. Though her face was tanned dark from the mountain region's strong sunlight, her eyes, nose, and mouth stood out sharply without losing the softness of a young woman's features. Reflecting moonlight, her face had been beautiful, almost like moonlight itself. Only her roughened hands did not fit. Used for weeding fields and working in water, they were not the porcelain hands of a city woman. She wore a stiff skirt and a traditional summer jacket of hemp cloth, along with black rubber shoes. She went without socks, which left the tops of her feet darkly tanned. Equally dark were her hands, wrists, and neck, as well as her calves below the short bloomers and shorter skirt, as if the summer sunlight had wished to kiss her body whenever offered a chance, desiring her beautiful and healthy skin . . .