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Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“I could only find hot water, so I brought you tea instead,” the classmate said.
The paper cup steamed with warm green tea. Walking over to the other side of the desk, he sat facing Juho. The two cups of tea on the desk contributed to the resemblance to a professional interview. He took what looked like a school laptop out of his bag. It had to belong to his homeroom teacher.
Next to it, was a piece of paper with a series of basic questions written on it. In order to keep Juho from seeing it, the classmate pushed it aside.
“Now, let’s begin. Would it be OK if I were to refer to you as Juho from now on, Mr. Woo?”
“Sure, but what’s with the formality?”
“This is, of course, an official interview. It’s basic courtesy,” the classmate said with a monkey-like smile. A faint whirring sound came from the distance.
“OK. First question. Where were you born, Juho?”
It was obvious that he was borrowing from another interview. An author’s life had a profound impact on their work. The author’s birthplace was a commonly asked question in interviews with international authors.
Juho answered willing and accordingly, “I was born in Seoul and lived in the city ever since, but I didn’t grow up looking only at a forest of buildings.”
“Does that mean you’ve traveled around a lot growing up?” the classmate asked candidly.
He wasn’t even looking at the paper, which meant he was creating or modifying questions depending on the situation. Though it seemed insignificant, it was proof that the interviewer was listening to the interviewee intently while thoroughly understanding the responses. Simultaneously, it also meant that the interviewer had a clear sense of direction.
Only then, did Juho realize that he was being interviewed.
“No. There are parts of Seoul that make you feel like you’re in the countryside. They’re not necessarily older neighborhoods. Even this school is built near the mountains, so we often hear insects chirping.
“Even the countryside is becoming more city-like, so it is true that the boundaries are becoming fuzzier.”
The sound of the keyboard filled the room. The classmate was typing out the interview. There was no way around it, since he didn’t have access to a recording device.
“So, when you wrote ‘Grains of Sand,’ did you refer to sceneries like the ones you mentioned earlier?”
“No. I actually made trips to the beach.”
“Oh, wow! In person?!” he answered as he jotted something down on the paper he had set aside. Then, he focused the subject on the author himself. “‘Grains of Sand’ is your first book, right? I know that you’ve been part of the Literature Club, but did you start writing before you joined?”
“Yes. It was a simple hobby of mine.”
“What topic have you written the most about?”
“I wasn’t really picky about genres. It’s a hobby after all. There was no need to be insistent. I wrote freely… however I felt like on the day.”
“For someone who speaks with such modesty, your skills are rather impressive. Did you receive formal training?”
“No. Just linguistics class at school and the Literature Club.”
“What’s your secret to writing?”
“There’s no secret, really. Oh, wait. According to our homeroom teacher, Mr. Moon, one becomes a better writer by simply writing more.”
The classmate’s eyes narrowed.
“Did you ever think of your skill as a talent you were born with?”
“I think frequently that writing takes more than just skill,” Juho said as he laughed light-heartedly.
The classmate moved his hands busily. He was skilled in multitasking. He asked question with his mouth while writing with his hand and thinking about the next question with his head, all at the same time. It was rather impressive.
“You mentioned just now that one simply has to write more to be a better writer. How often do you write?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t count the days I’m writing. It’s hard to say.”
He backed out suddenly. He was reserving the time and energy for the more important questions.
“Your work has been growing increasingly popular at school lately. What is your perspective on this?”
Juho remained silent for a moment, then said, “That sounds a bit exaggerated.”
At that, the classmate smiled playfully, looking all the more like a monkey.
“Trust me on this. Fame is what calls for more fame.”
He didn’t let up. In the end, Juho referred back to his experience and gave him a cliche of an answer, “Well, I’m not sure if I’m getting famous or not, but the fact that there are people reading my work remains true. I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to my readers.”
With a satisfied smile, the classmate continued with his questions about ‘Grains of Sand.’
“In ‘Grains of Sand,’ rocks serve the purpose of a medium. The old lady treats them with significance, but in the end, she tosses them all into the sea. Would it be possible to interpret that the significance of the rock has changed?”
“That would be very much possible,” Juho said, nodding his head.
“I’d always thought that the subject of this book had always been about things that remain unchanged. Wouldn’t that interpretation contradict the subject?”
“Perhaps. I stayed true to the flow when I wrote it.”
“What are you referring to when you say ‘flow?'”
“Whether things change or not, it’s all the same. That’s what I meant.”
“In what way?”
He was rather persistent, so Juho gave him an answer after organizing his thoughts for a brief time.
“The person who gives rocks significance was the old lady. On the other hand, she’s also the person who removes their significance. Whether or not she kept those rocks with her, the fact that she’s her own self remains unchanged. I focused on those things as I wrote.”
That was what Juho actually wanted to portray.
“We can always imagine that the old lady lived through youthful days. Her young and old self are the same person, but depending on how one interprets it, one may argue otherwise. She may have changed to some, while she always remained herself to others.”
The classmate forehead furrowed. He didn’t seem to understand.
“Are you saying that it’s impossible to clearly distinguish between the things that change and things that don’t?”
“What I’m saying is that it’s up to the readers how they want to distinguish them.”
It was up to the readers to decide who the old lady was or what the rocks meant.
“I think I might have an idea of what you’re trying to say, but OK.”
“That’s more than enough. If you focus on the significance too much, it takes away from the reading experience. Speaking of which, you’re kind of going back and forth between yourself and an interviewer. What happened to your basic courtesy?”
“Oh, ‘scuse me. That was my bad. Now, why don’t we move on to the next question?”
Clearing his throat, he resumed the interview.
“You mentioned earlier that ‘Grains of Sand’ was a story that you thought of after personally making a trip to the beach. Can you tell me more about that?”
“There isn’t much to tell, really. I just thought of the story while I was there. That’s it.”
At Juho’s lukewarm response, the classmate pushed on with another question, “There are a lot of things at the beach, but what made you write about sand of all things? When I read your book, I was getting a strong impression that there was something rather significant about it.”
Juho imagined the woman wearing her blue jeans with grains of sand on it, and he remembered the reason he had decided on giving her those things.
“To be more precise, it’s the exact opposite.”
“I didn’t think of a story while I was relaxing at the beach. I went to the beach with the specific intention to think of a story.”
The classmate asked Juho to elaborate with his eyes.
“In other words, there’s no reason,” Juho said calmly.
It had been an impulsive encounter. Though one could argue that there had been profound reason where destiny and coincidence had come together into a tangled mess, Juho didn’t want to explain something like that.
After catching on tactfully, the classmate proceeded quietly, “So, this was mentioned in the synopsis, but the protagonist receives a gift before she leaves for the beach. What’s interesting here is that there’s no mention of who gave her those gifts anywhere in the book.”
“I’ll ask you directly. Who did it?”
Having followed the standard procedures consistently, the classmate took a sudden turn in the way he approached his interviewee. While it was somewhat awkward, Juho preferred him being direct.
“It doesn’t matter. If I didn’t portray someone in my book, that’s what it means. It could be a reader, or me even, the author. It could be a friend or a family member. What’s important is that somebody gave her a gift, and she received it.”
“That’s where the story begins.”
“Right. Her trip begins with the affection she received from another person.”
“All without saying a word.”
“Words are not needed in gifts. One can always identify with another without saying a single word. The fact that we can communicate with foreigners or stray cats is proof.”
Juho looked at the classmate. Though monkey-like, he was rather charming.
‘What would happen if he actually turned out to be a monkey?’
He wouldn’t be able to understand a single word Juho said to him, and the interview would be left in ruins, filled with misunderstandings.
Yet, there had to be ways to connect with him. It was always possible to share feelings with people of different races who spoke different languages.
“Now, this will be the last question regarding ‘Grains of Sand.’ In the beginning of the book, there’s a part that talks about the protagonist’s daily life, and it begins with her walking past the school. Would it be possible to interpret this scene as a criticism toward the educational system?”
Taking his eyes off the face of his monkey-like classmate, Juho answered with a shrug, “The bell actually indicates the beginning and end of a class. I wasn’t intending on criticising anything in particular. What the readers identified with from that part is an issue out of my hands.”
Slight displeasure appeared on the classmate’s face.
“Could you share at least a little bit about what you really thought?”
After thinking briefly, Juho gave him an answer, “Well, I am currently a student myself.”
The classmate let out a chuckle. It seemed like the interview was nearing its end. While typing away slowly at the keyboard, he asked hesitantly, “This might be somewhat of a sensitive question. Would you mind?”
His cheek trembled slightly.
“Let’s hear it,” Juho said.
“Frankly, after reading your book, I became curious.”
“You’ve been writing all this time, and your skill is next to none. Yet…”
He took a deep breath.
“… You didn’t win a single award for the school essay contest.”
It was as unexpected of a question from the amount of time he took to ask it. Juho revisited an old memory that was nearly forgotten. He remembered Seo Kwang eating his fried chicken.
The monkey’s eyes sparkled with curiosity at Juho’s response.
“Was it because you couldn’t fully utilize your skill?”
If anything, Juho had overexerted himself that day.
“Was there a person disrupting you?”
“There has to be something.”
“Not really,” Juho said. “I just fell short. That’s all.”
While writing busily, the classmate’s hand came to a sudden stop. He looked rather displeased. For someone conducting an interview, he was rather vulnerable.
“Oh, c’mon! Can you be a little more specific?”
“I told you. There’s nothing to it.”
“You? Falling short in an essay contest? No one’s going to buy that. Give me something, an excuse, anything.”
In the end, Juho gave into his classmate’s persistent character.
“It was mostly my fault. When I was deciding on the direction of the essay, I didn’t take where I was into consideration. I was disqualified.”
“What was it like? What did you write about?”
“A plaster figure.”
“Oh, yeah. That was the weirdest one. How did you manage to get yourself disqualified with it though?”
“There’s an animal,” Juho said as he remembered his writing then.
Juho was referring to a character from his story.
“Do you know what Bonobos are? They’re very peaceful for the most part.”
The classmate caught on to where Juho was coming from immediately.
“Did you write about them having sex or something? Is that enough to get you disqualified? It’s biological, so it’s strictly scientific fact.”
“Well, the teacher who read my story thought otherwise.”
After a brief time thinking, he moved his pen busily. Juho had no idea what to expect.
“Please, don’t write anything too provocative.”
“Don’t you worry. It’s not like I’ve done this once or twice. The main focus will be on ‘Grains of Sand,'” the classmate said as he wrote busily.
“OK! Now, our last question for the day.”
Feeling a sense of relief, Juho waited for the question patiently.
“There’s a professional author who is the same age as you. He’s responsible for writing the current top bestseller. There’s something commonly referred to as ‘Yun Woo Fever.’ What is your opinion on that?”
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