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Interview with Author Kim Tae Yong

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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 
to share many conversations with him, even if it was through an interpreter, and we became friends. We continue to be friends to this day. 

The “Free Talk” session left much to be desired. The time allotted to the whole group of twenty writers was seven hours, so the time each 
author had for discussion was short. I got the feeling the conversation was not going anywhere. I have tried to rectify this point as a member
of the organizing committee. We have doubled the total time from 7 to 14 hours and have allotted an hour to each pair of Korean and
international writers. I expect that the discussions will be more intense this time around.



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
you like but also authors from different countries.



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 
view of literature. Ensuring that a wide range of nationalities is represented in the list of foreign invitees is good, but so is ensuring that they
share the same view of literature and have a common worldview so they’re able to share what is on their minds and have more intense 
discussions. This will not only help in exchanges between authors but will also increase the significance of the festival.

Moreover, it is a fact that international works translated and published in Korea are limited to a few popular authors. I want SIWF to 
become a window through which we discover interesting foreign writers who have not yet come into the limelight. Of course, it makes it 
tougher on the people who organize the festival. (Laughs)




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

around him.



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.


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