• Book
  • English(English)

사과는 잘해요

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    Republic of Korea
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  • Genre
    Literature - Korean literature - Contemporary fiction



    Title: At Least We Can Apologize

    Author: Lee Kiho

    Genre: Contemporary fiction


    LTI Korea staff: Alex Baek ( / +82-2-6919-7733)


  • About the book

    Do you know what you did wrong?


    Even if you do not mention Freud, the sense of guilt is one of the fundamental emotions people in civilized societies have. It is an emotion which prevents people from committing a crime, for without it, people would be willing to do even things harmful to others and not be willing to pay for their sins. It is not pleasant to imagine such a 'chaotic' world, and in this sense, it can be said that the sense of guilt is like a ticket for an orderly civilized world. Is the order and control, however, really good and valuable?


    Lee Kiho has already talked about a scary world where you are forced to confess your sins in a short story titled "The Confession Age" whose main character is a subaltern living outside the civilization or order. And a similar theme is being illuminated from a new angle in At Least We Can Apologize.


    This novel is a complete remake of his story that was serialized online. The introduction of the work depicts an incident at a shelter, which was created to provide the homeless people with the benefits that the society can provide. However, confinement, violence and forced labor are rampant, which does not fit the word 'shelter'. The people who run the shelter and who physically abuse the homeless people in the shelter keep asking questions like "Do you know what you did wrong?" or "Do you know what your sins are?" Strangely, however, the victims feel as if they have really sinned. In fact, the two protagonists Si-Bong and Jin-man say, "From the next day we continued to sin. We always had to confess first, not knowing what our sins were." The story takes readers to the process of how the two characters are forced to make confessions, which in turn causes them to have a sense of guilt, and how they are tamed by their sense of guilt.


    Of course, it is difficult to say that the shelter where the two characters have been imprisoned is a typical human society. As the two main characters walk out of the shelter to mix into the lives of ordinary people, the story enters a new phase. It dawns on Si-Bong and Jin-man, who have been looking for a job, that they are good at making an apology. They are masters of apology, for they have been forced to make confessions and apologies for their sins in a world of brutal violence. So they start to give out flyers to passers-by, saying "We apology to your parents, spouse, brothers, relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers, on behalf of you, for the sins you have not known about."


    What they propose to do, apologizing on behalf of others, looks ridiculous; however, the story reveals that it is not as ridiculous as it sounds, for it is true that ordinary people often sin against “their parents, spouse, relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers” without knowing it. And the problem is that people are not willing to acknowledge their sins, which are apparent in the eyes of the main characters who have been conditioned to apologize mechanically and unconditionally. What is a sin? In the conclusion of the novel, the shelter's director describes that "A sin is forgotten if you pretend not to know about it." As the director says, most people live their lives oblivious to the sins that they have committed, which does not mean that their sins have been washed clean. Then what should we do? The novel deals with a serious philosophical questions with a sense of humor and sarcasm.

    About the author

    Born in 1972, Lee Kiho made his literary debut in 1999 with his short story “Bunny” published in Hyundae Munhak. He received the Lee Hyo-Seok Literary Award in 2010, the Kim Seung-Ok Literary Award in 2013 and the Hankook Ilbo Literary Award in 2014. He is currently a professor at Dept. of Creative Writing, Gwangju University. He has published the following collections of short stories: Choi Sun-Deok Filled With The Holy Spirit, I Knew If I Stayed Around Long Enough, Something Like This Would Happen and Who Is Dr. Kim? His novels include At Least We Can Apologize and History Of The World Of Second Sons. History Of The World Of Second Sons is the second work in his “sin trilogy” following At Least We Can Apologize. In this work, the author deals with the issue of crime and punishment between individuals and the state through the life of a character who struggles to prove his innocence when he becomes wanted under the military regime of the early 1980s.


    Media Response/Awards Received

    At Least We Can Apologize is the first full-length novel by Lee Kiho, who has been regarded as a “next generation storyteller” due to his sense of humor and wit and his writing style that subverts the authority of the language used in traditional fictions. This work is a story about immature and childlike Si-Bong and Jin-man, who are running an “apology agency” to make money. In fact, eccentric and silly characters and somewhat absurd setting of the story in which characters apologize on behalf of someone else are often seen in Lee’s fictions. However, the tone of this work, inquiring into system and violence, forced sins, and the sense of guilt, is calmer and more succinct than before.

    - The Kyunghyang Shinmun


    Do you want to laugh? Or do you want to cry? Then you should read the works of Lee Kiho. He has crossed the “grand discourse” of the 1980s and the “micro discourse” of the 1990s and now, he is creating new trends in our literary circles today: A touching pathos is his reliable strategy for a compromise between the old and the new order; his work sparkles with sensuous satire and humor while disclosing the dark side of our society with a sense of warmth and humanity. In short, he is a sensitive wind vane of the Korean fictions in the 2000s.

    - Park Bum-Shin (novelist)


    In Lee Kiho's novel, I can hear the sounds of heartbeat. The flesh has been taken away from the work as much as possible, and a skeletal plot develops quickly. My heart, which has completely fallen under the spell of the work, lies down like the railroads, and a train rattles over it. The story runs through the darkness with horns and lights. The story, now a drumstick, beats with the heart of the world. And the moon bends low to the ground to listen to the sound. The train has left me, and forlornness and coldness linger in my heart. I appreciate his work.

    - Ham Min-Bok (poet)

Translated Books (5)

News from Abroad (4)