Friday, August 12, 2005

Deadlines and Storylines

Yesterday morning, I took time off from my academic work and visited the Da-Il Community's Angel Hospital, a Christian-funded hospital that provides free medical care for the poor.

I've previously mentioned that my wife and I are translating a book by Pastor Choi Il-Do (최일도):

최일도: 밥짓는 시인 퍼주는 사랑. 시인목사 최일도의 아름다운 세상찾기.

We've -- rather tentatively -- rendered the title as: A Poet Making Rice, Scooping Love. Our visit to Angel's Hospital yesterday was for discussing our nearly finished translation and clarifying some facts.

Pastor Choi Il-Do himself was at a different Da-Il center, so we spoke with his wife, Kim Yeon-soo who answered most of our inquiries. Some of our questions concerned obscurities in the book's chronology.

The story in the book begins about 25 years ago with Choi Il-Do first falling in love with Kim Yeon-soo, who was a Catholic nun at the time. This -- as you can imagine -- posed a problem for Choi, who made a turbulent trip alone to Gasa Island off the southern coast of Korea to deal with his feelings. His experience there forged his resolve to seek Kim's heart against great odds.

This part of the tale was enthralling, for Choi fell deeply enough into despair to seriously consider throwing himself from the ship into the sea.

Yet, something was missing, as if part of the story had been left out.

When I finally began editing the preface -- which I received last because my wife translated it last -- I discovered that there had been a prior trip to Gasa Island and that Choi had written love letters there daily for a month, sending them to Kim at her convent. She had never received the letters, however, for one of her superiors had intercepted and destroyed them.

This seemed rather significant to me, and I wondered why this part of the story had been left out of the narrative but mentioned in the preface.

So . . . my wife and I asked Kim Yeon-soo about this.

Originally, she explained, Pastor Choi had included it in his larger narrative, but the Korean publisher had edited it out:

"Too repetitious," the editors had said.

Well . . . yeah, Choi did repeat the journey, and I can understand that some readers might find this redundant . . . but the book is autobiography, not a novel. The earlier Gasa trip really happened. And it was a significant journey.

I wish that I had read this preface earlier, for I would have encouraged Pastor Choi to integrate the first Gasa trip with the larger narrative. There's no time for that now, so I'm advising him to drop it from the preface entirely since its presence there would raise questions about its absence in the text.

But someday, a scholar writing on Pastor Cho Il-Do and his Christian social work for the poor will notice the discrepancy and ask, "Now, why was this left out . . ."


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