Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Three Days in That Autumn

Not the best title, but "Three Days in That Autumn" is a fantastic and unforgettable novella. Park Wan-suh, one of Korea's most revered writers, takes us inside an abortion clinic in 1950s Seoul. The narrator is complicated and mysterious. After being raped and impregnated during the Korean War, she knows what it's like to carry an unwanted child, so she becomes a savior to other rape victims. She grows accustomed to taking bribes and seeing women shamed by their families. Sometimes she takes pride in her work and other times she's on the brink of madness and thinks she hears babies screaming in her garden. She's about ready to retire, but she has one wish: she wants to deliver a living baby before she retires. But how can she convince someone to let her deliver a baby when she's been ostracized by hypocrites and seen as a butcher?

In one memorable scene, Park Wan-suh describes women eating umbilical cords after having had abortions, in the belief that this practice will make them more beautiful. They wash the cords down with soju and become vulgar drunkards in the doctor's office. This book reveals the pathetic and pitiable side of humanity, where beauty and goodness are the runaways you don't wait up for anymore, but you still keep the porch light on, just in case.

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