Double is an omnibus collection of eighteen of Park Min-gyu’s award-winning short stories. They run the gamut from dark comedy, mystery, sci-fi to romance. The book is divided into two volumes designed as two sides of an LP record. Here’s a brief rundown of the stories:
• In “Close,” a terminally-ill man returns to his hometown and looks for a time capsule he remembers burying with his childhood friends.
• In “A Boat on a Yellow River,” a retiree takes his wife, an Alzheimer’s patient, on their last cross-country trip together.
• In “Goodbye, Zeppelin,” two men chase after a truant advertising blimp across the city.
• In “Deep,” a scientific expedition heads to the unexplored depths of the ocean.
• In “Are You Gonna Keep This Up?” a noise complaint brings together two neighbors who share a meal as apocalypse draws near.
• In “Did He Who Made the Lamb Make Thee” two men try to remember how they ended up in a watchtower from where they have to shoot at mysterious attackers.
• In “Good Morning, John Wayne,” a dictator undergoes cryogenic freezing to wake up when science has found a cure for his illness.
• In “I’m Good at Soccer Too, You Know?” Marilyn Monroe is reborn as a Korean man.
• In “Croman, Un,” humanity evolves and diverges into two species. One creates universes while the other works as hired help.
• In “Siesta,” a story about unrequited love and dementia, a man meets his first love at a retirement home.
• In “Rudy,” a man driving through Alaska is taken hostage by an unusual hitchhiker.
• In “𪚥,” four legendary martial artists known as the Four Dragons survive Korea’s turbulent history only to find that there’s no place for old men in the modern world where the great cause and moral codes are long gone and money and K-pop girl groups reign supreme.
• In “Beach Boys,” four friends head for the beach and for freedom.
• In “Aspirin,” a UFO looms over the Seoul skyline one day.
• In “A Dildo Saved My Family,” a down-on-his-luck salesman discovers a dildo in his wife’s dresser and journeys to Mars to close a deal and find satisfaction.
• In “Star,” a designated driver has to drive home an ex who cheated on him.
• In “The Arc,” a veteran constable has to climb a bridge to stop a suicide attempt.
• In “Geniculum,” a man in the Old Stone Age period seeks food for his mate and baby.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Park Min-gyu (b. 1968) grew up in the industrial town of Ulsan, before moving to Seoul to study creative writing at Chung-Ang University. After stints in the shipping and publishing industry, Park debuted in 2003 with two novels: The Sammi Superstar’s Last Fan Club, about fans of a mediocre baseball team, and Legend of Earth’s Heroes, a parody of the superhero genre. Both works were widely acclaimed by readers and critics, who praised in particular his unconventional narratives that were laced with irony, keen sense of humor, imaginative word play, and emotive lyricism. Park has since gone to published many books and stories, including the short story collections Castella (2005) and Double (2010) and the novels Ping Pong (2006) and Pavane for a Dead Princess (2009). His works have garnered several awards, including the Munhakdonge New Writer’s Award, Hankyoreh Literary Award, Yi Hyo-seok Literary Award, Hwang Sun-won Literary Award, and Yi Sang Literary Award. His full-length works in translation include Pavane for a Dead Princess (Dalkey Archive, 2014) in English, Pavane pour une infante défunte (Decrescenzo éditeurs, 2014) and Ping-pong (Editions Intervalles, 2016) in French, and El último club de fans de los Sammi Superstars (Filodecaballos, 2016) in Spanish. Park’s stories will appeal to fans of Ryū Murakami, George Saunders, and Kurt Vonnegut.
2017 Grand Korea Leisure Translation Grand Prize for “Close”
Daesan Foundation translation and publication grant awardee
“Aspirin” reviewed at Speculative Fiction in Translation:
“With a style that Joseph describes as ‘quirky’, Park’s writing includes wordplay and paragraph organization that recalls structural and linguistic effects of poetry. Translation of such writing is an understandable challenge, making “Aspirin” an interesting piece to highlight such considerations, and the choices a translator must make to match a text’s original intent for readers. The text of “Aspirin” is almost musical, establishing a rhythm that echoes the character’s mood and actions. For instance, the story begins with a ‘usual day’ for the protagonist, with a paragraph that features quick-fire repetition broken by details:
Lunchtime. A simple meal. A Starbucks Espresso.
That was all. It was a usual day: I did a concept sketch at a window-side table as usual, was joined by Kwak and Hwangbo as usual, had a rambling conversation with them as usual. Only one thing was different. Caramel Macchiato? I think I’ll have that today. Kwak came to the table holding a Caramel Macchiato. What does it taste like? Tastes like its name, I guess. So I muttered Caramel Macchiato to myself a couple of times. That was all.
“A mundane Seoul lunch and a routine trip to the café are broken by the sudden arrival of a UFO in the skies above. Only it’s not a UFO exactly. It’s a thing. It’s something. The world goes abuzz in the mystery, but in the absence of immediate danger, daily life goes on. I’ll leave it to your reading to discover how the title of this story relates to all of this, but suffice it to say it involves a dose of surreal and pitch-perfect humor. Both difficult to translate, both Park and Joseph make such an endeavor successful through the textual construction. “Aspirin” ultimately seems like a reflection on the comforts that we find in the routine and the question of what sort of large-scale stimuli are necessary to get ordinary individuals to react, particularly when one struggles to define what is going on within one’s framework of reality and culture. I’m ready to read more of Park wherever I can. This story is an example of how valuable and necessary translations of world literature are.” — Daniel Haeusser
“The stories in Double are so varied that readers might wonder if the book was indeed written by a single author. The stories themselves seem to have ‘doubles,’ with some using the grammar of the mystery, martial arts, and the science fiction genre, showcasing Park Min-gyu’s unaffected style, while the others show us his more sentimental style of writing through subjects such as dementia, elderly fathers, a dying man, and suicide. Of course, it’s up to the reader whether they are warmed or chilled by the stories that are woven from the completely different worlds that the author has calmly created.”Kang Yu-jung
PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED STORIES
FOR A TRANSLATION SAMPLE, PLEASE CONTACT
Agnel Joseph: agnelone [at] gmail.com
Agnel Joseph is a recipient of several translation grants and awards, including the Grand Korea Leisure Translation Award, Writers’ Centre Norwich Emerging Translator Mentorship, the Korea Times’ Modern Korean Literature Translation Award, and the LTI Korea Award for Aspiring Translators. He is the editor-in-chief of Korean Literature Now magazine. His book-length translations include Double by Park Min-gyu and Like I Fight by Jung Jidon. His translations have appeared in Asymptote, Litro, and Wasafiri. He can be reached at agnelone [at] gmail.com.