Interview with Author Kim Tae Yong
Grotesque and convoluted. Those are the two words most commonly used to describe Kim Tae Yong’s novels. His writing is not easily
accessible because he keeps pushing the boundaries of genre. His stories are not the kind you read comfortably, nor are they meant to be read that way. The reader become conscious of the concern with which the author is wrestling amid the discomfort he creates. Kim Tae Yong is one of the avant-garde writers of Korea who blend the boundaries of genre. He participated in the 2012 Seoul International Writers’
Festival as a writer and this year he is part of the festival as member of the organizing committee. Let’s find out what exciting ideas he has for the festival.
History with SIWF
Q. Have you taken part in any other literary festivals apart from SIWF?
- The first time I took part in a festival formally was at last year’s SIWF. I found it to be a new and refreshing experience.
Q. What were merits and demerits you noticed when you participated in the 4th SIWF in 2012?
- The best thing about the festival was my partner. Through the festival, I was able to meet Philippe Besson of whom I was a fan. I was able
▲ 2012년 '서울국제작가축제' 작가들의 수다에 참여 중인 김태용 작가(좌)와 장 필립 뚜생(우)
Q. How did you feel when you got the invitation to participate in the festival for a second time?
- I gladly accepted. (Laughs) I would not miss it for the world because there are not many opportunities in Korea to meet not only authors
Q. This time, you are participating in the festival not simply as an author but also as an organizing committee member. The two roles carry their own weight. Did you feel any pressure?
- Of course, I did. But, more than pressure, I was full of expectation. Having been a participant in the previous festival, I’d thought to myself
that I’ll not become an obstacle in the smooth running of the festival. (Laughs) You see, I’m the sort of person who likes to experiment.
Q. The organizing committee has already met some 11 times, starting from May last year. You would have already prepared the broad framework of the festival by now. Is there anything about which you feel particularly ambitious?
- I paid special attention to the selection of the invitee authors. I wanted to invite writers who’re roughly the same age and share the same
What is a book reading to an author?
Q.Your book reading in last year’s SIWF was impressive.
- Actually, the idea came to me two days before the session. I found book reading sessions held so frequently in other festivals dreary. You
could say I was skeptical about book readings. The audience as well as the author himself or herself should find it interesting, only then does a book reading have any meaning. The thought crossed my mind that it would be a good idea to try out sound poetry on stage.
Coincidentally, at that time I used to shoot 59 second videos every day, and so I thought I should use the video I had shot of the Silver Grass
at the Sangumburi Crater on our trip to Jeju Island as part of the festival.
▲ 2012년 "서울국제작가축제" 낭독 무대 위 김태용 작가
Q. You’ve been focused on the problem of the limitations of language and have been trying to overcome it in your works. So what meaning do “book readings”—where “sound’ is given to language—hold for you?
- I can’t say I have been studying the problem of language and sound right from my debut. While writing, I discovered that the limitation as
well as the joy of literature all lies in language. I personally like poetry. Also, I believe literature originated from poetry. While reading poetry I
also became captivated by the vocal aspect of sound and became sensitive to it. A novel transmits meaning to the reader through the
device of narration, so the pleasure in reading it out aloud is less when compared to reciting a poem. Even though poetry cannot be
narrated in an instant, it carries a special feeling because of the fascinating images and sounds it creates. I want to create such poetic
elements in my novels too.
Q. Is there any special reason you chose your short story “The Night Is Mysterious and the More You Walk in the Night, the More Melancholic It Becomes” as your contributing piece to the festival this year?
- I chose it with the book reading session in mind. This short story is a theatrical piece narrated through the monologue of the main
character. The narration dwells on a cross-dresser who wanders the streets at night, and progresses from things that happen to him and
Q. “Theatrical” piece… I think I get what you mean. (Laughs)
- Around the time when I was writing this story, I started becoming interested in theatre. Things like contrived situations, movement of
characters, voices and so on. I feel theatre is the literary genre that has the most systematic and artificial structure. This particular work is
centered on the fact that the moment man starts a monologue the situation becomes more confusing instead of becoming clear and that
this confusion will never end.
Q. There are many innovations in this year’s SIWF. What sort of book reading are you preparing?
- At first, I prepared a audio performance using special equipment. But then I change my mind because while experimenting with different
genres is good the original charm of a book reading should not be harmed, being a literary festival and all. I am planning a performance that
will bring to life the theatrical element of the story. I think I will be able to put an interesting performance without big movements or special
Q. Do you have any specials expectations with this festival?
- As a member of the organizing committee, the only thing I’m thinking of right now is the successful completion of the festival. (Laughs)
I hope we’re able to discover unexpected talents. I hope we’re able to see a different side to authors whom we have met only through their
works. I’m looking forward to be inspired by sharing conversations with different authors. Of course, it would be even better if it is a literary
Q. I was kind of dubious when I saw that you are paired with Susan Choi. Both of your styles are quite different. Did you choose her out of curiosity? (Laughs)
- I won’t deny it. (Laughs) But it’s not true that I only read bizarre and difficult works. Rather, there are instances when authors of a different
style inspire me. On one side, I too want to write closely woven and well-constructed stories. I came to know of Susan Choi through the
recommendation of an American publisher. She is a renowned English author.
Q. Is there anything you can tell us about Susan Choi?
- I’ve been reading her works. Her stories are interesting so I recommend readers to check her out. I am not sure this is the right way to
put it, but you can feel “male musculature” in her writing… There are many things I’m curious about that I plan to ask her myself during the
“Free Talk” session.