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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“Let’s sit here,” Yun Seo said, checking her spot as she sat gently.
After Juho and her pupils also sat down, Geun Woo took some snacks out of his backpack, and Joon Soo, a thermos. At that, Juho realized why he had been told to bring nothing but a bottle of water.
“Here, have some cucumber.”
“Some coffee for ya.”
(TL’s Note: Cucumbers are a popular snack for hikers in Korea.)
Struck all over again by the sudden realization of how familiar Yun Seo and her two pupils were to the trail, Juho bit into the cucumber in his hand. Crunchy and refreshing, it was more than enough to quench his thirst from the hike.
“A lot of people die in the mountains, right?”
“Is that what you’re thinking about in a peaceful place like this?”
“I was just having some lingering thoughts.”
Feeling the inclination of the trail, Juho looked into the distance at a forest of buildings. Being in the mountains, it was only natural that he felt like he was leaning forward. Then, he wondered what life would be like for those who lived in such a place.
“I heard you met San Jung?” Yun Seo asked, drinking her coffee. Juho had already been informed by Geun Woo that San Jung had also been one of Yun Seo’s pupils.
“She was a fascinating person. Quite different from the way she writes,” Juho said.
“San Jung is a gentle soul, unlike her writing style,” Yun Seo agreed.
As Yun Seo and Juho had said, there was a stark contrast between San Jung’s quiet personality and her writing style. Portraying situations and emotions associated with them that were almost over the top, her writing was, simply put, intense. However, the fact that her readers were able to read through and resonate with such emotionally overwhelming books proved that San Jung knew exactly what kind of sentences to use in various situations. Her stories revealed her obsession with writing explicitly, and whenever Juho read a book of hers, he couldn’t help but ask himself as a fellow author, “Is she OK?”
“But you two are quite similar in some ways.”
“You look like an average Joe, yet your writing style is anything but,” Yun Seo said calmly.
While Geun Woo giggled, Joon Soo added, “They both make me wonder if they’re OK after writing with such intensity.”
“So, am I OK?”
Juho was, in fact, well enough to climb up a mountain.
“Yes. Hyun Do also said that you would be. Although, I’m not sure if I can say the same for the other person.”
She was referring to San Jung. Thinking back on his conversation with Hyun Do, Juho asked, “How come? Does she have indigestion?”
“A digestive process might not be the best way to describe her writing process,” Yun Seo said as she looked at the buildings the size of anthills in the distance. The world tended to look different depending on how people looked at it. In San Jung’s case…
“She’s an author who becomes prey to herself voluntarily.”
At that, Juho cocked his head in confusion.
“What does that mean?” Geun Woo asked, just as confused as Juho.
“It’s quite simple. You can just feel it when you read her books: desperate, getting eaten away in the inside. There are authors like that among the greats.”
The last word in her sentence lingered in Juho’s ears for a little while.
“I don’t know if this would apply to San Jung, but authors like that tend to value writing over their own lives, so they dedicate everything to it, without holding back. Their values, emotions, efforts, talents. They just let their own work chip away at their being.”
Books written in such a manner tended to yield one of two results: a book that was unrelatable and at best, forgettable, or a masterpiece that overwhelmed its readers. It was a romantic notion, which many authors held dear to their hearts, to let their own craft eat away at their lives so that their works outlived their creators. Unfortunately, there were extremely few who were capable of that, and even if it was possible, even fewer actually carried it out.
Smiling awkwardly, Joon Soo said, “I do get the impression that she doesn’t really understand the concept of ‘taking it slower.'”
“She’s kind of out of it, too.”
“Can I tell San Jung about all this?”
“It’s a compliment. I mean, you can just tell it from her moving to the mountains on her own. Her obsession with writing is second to none,” Geun Woo said hastily, and after hesitating for a brief moment, he asked, “Do you think she would really go that far?”
Did she have what it took to become a great storyteller? Then, Juho remembered seeing San Jung’s face before his death. Back then, nobody had called her by a title like that.
“Well, in any case, I’m really looking forward to her piece.”
“How are you saying that?!”
At that, Geun Woo dropped his head, and the dark circles under his eyes grew all the darker.
“Yun Woo and San Jung. And now, you. I’m the only one left out,” he said, and his distinctively depressing expression appeared on his face, which suited his personality quite well.
“Nobody knows what I look like either. You’re not alone, Geun Woo.”
“Don’t push it.”
As Geun Woo was about to give into anger, Joon Soo intervened. And Juho thought as he ignored him swiftly, ‘I never have nor will let myself be devoured by my own mind. Maybe that puts me in the polar opposite from San Jung.”
Although there were times he found her writing style charming, Juho was fully aware that it was something that he couldn’t dare to replicate. He was simply too greedy. Values, emotions, efforts, and talents. In his mind, they all belonged to him.
Then, Juho remembered his most recent piece, which was just over nine thousand words. It was rather short considering that he had dedicated an entire day at the Han River to it, eating just one meal that whole day, and it was that very piece that he had wrestled with for an entire month. He had forgotten long ago how many times he had read through it or how many revisions he had made, and the only reason he was able to see it to the end was because it belonged solely to him.
“Speaking of which, this is going to be Yun Woo’s first short story, isn’t it?” Geun Woo said. The piece would be Yun Woo’s first short story, or perhaps, an autobiographical tale of his death, which nobody would know about. And holding on to that secret, Juho smiled quietly, unlike Geun Woo, whose expression grew all the more depressing.
“Yun Woo’s first short story, huh? That alone should be enough to catch people’s attention. I just hope it doesn’t get pushed aside.”
“Don’t worry,” Juho said. Perhaps death was a subject best suited for an author like Geun Woo. After all, death was often accompanied by depression. When Juho expressed his honest opinion, Geun Woo didn’t try to argue.
“Death isn’t just depressing, you know. From what I’ve found out while writing, it’s also contagious.”
Contagious. Death was like a cold, which spread through a person’s sneeze. Juho agreed.
“There is such a thing as a suicide contagion, right? Or a copycat suicide?”
It referred to a phenomenon where people made the unfortunate choice to take their own lives after the death of a celebrity or a person of influence. It was an act in which people followed in the footsteps of their idols.
Then, Yun Seo said, “That reminds me of ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther.'”
Along with Juho, her pupils had been thinking of the same thing. Written by a literary great named Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ was responsible for the numerous deaths of young readers who had worshipped Werther as an idol, leading them to make the foolish choice of taking their own lives. It was for that very reason that the phenomenon was referred to as ‘The Werther’s Effect.’
“That novel came out in 1774, right? People must have been sensitive to trends back then, too.”
“They always have been. There were countless young people who dressed like Werther in the book.”
“Apparently, there were colognes and works of pottery too. If you think about it, there’s a long history of ‘goods based on stories.'”
A book that portrayed the events that occur as the protagonist, “Werther,” falls in love with a girl engaged to another man,’The Sorrows of Young Werther’ had a rather simple plot, and just as the title suggested, it was about Werther’s sorrows. In a love that couldn’t come true, sadness was inevitable.
Werther was someone who was quite sensitive to his emotions, to the point of, when overcome with sorrow, taking his life with a pistol. While some may have thought the character to be idiotic and absurd, readers resonated deeply with the deep emotions portrayed by the author, to the point where some readers took their own lives.
“Goethe, himself, was dumbfounded by the phenomenon. After all, he didn’t look at Werther’s suicide in a positive light, either. Apparently, he even begged his readers not to kill themselves like Werther.”
“Tell me about it. I would too. I mean, how tragic would it be to find out that your own work was urging people to commit suicide? The thought of it alone is making my stomach turn,” Geun Woo said with his mouthful of cucumber, and Juho was no different. He couldn’t begin to imagine what that had been like for the unfortunate literary great.
“There are a lot of different opinions on how that novel came to be so influential, but the way I see it as an author, it had to be based on the author’s personal experience.”
Like Joon Soo had said, ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ was a book based on its author’s personal experience in having loved an engaged woman, and that of a friend, who had taken their own life after they were overcome by the sorrow of love.
“I agree. The ending of that book was influenced by the death of his friend. A piece of writing that was influenced by something tends to influence yet something else.”
Although Geun Woo was stating the obvious, Joon Soo nodded affirmingly. Then, looking at the authors who had written on the subject of death with narrowed eyes, Yun Seo said, “You don’t think that kind of writing would come out of this group, do you? Oh, maybe when I die?”
At that, everyone shook their heads simultaneously.
“Mrs. Baek! Why would you say that!?”
“C’mon now, Mrs. Baek. Here, have a cucumber.”
“And some coffee.”
Giggling at their reactions, Yun Seo told them that she’d be looking forward to their upcoming pieces.
“Don’t get your hopes up too much, Mrs. Baek. It burdens me.”
“All right. If you say so.”
“I mean… maybe a tiny bit,” Geun Woo said, struggling to make up his mind.
Juho looked at at the inclining trail. He had written about death, and he, himself, had had firsthand experience with it. Whether or not he had actually died was up for debate, but in any case, it was true that his experience came very close to it. But, he had come back to the past.
A piece like Goethe’s. As long as Juho was Yun Woo, reaching the skill level of the German literary great was nearly impossible. Besides, Juho wasn’t confident that he was capable of writing something that would move the readers to the point of making them take their own lives. However, nobody could know the results. Even Goethe, himself, had had no idea of what kind of effect his novel would have on its readers. That was what the future was like.
Juho reminisced about his past life, made of nothing but an unpromising future. Because it had only grown worse by the day, only spiraling down further, Juho worked hard to twist and distort his experience, and he did it to his heart’s content. A choice tended to yield various results, and now, he was building relationships with people he had never met in the past. The proof was in the literary magazine he was taking part in, which hadn’t existed in his past life. The group of authors had also been no more than a social gathering.
‘Will the future I’m about to face still look anything like the past?’
It was very likely that it would be nothing like the future he had experienced. However, the opposite was always a possibility.
“All right. Shall we?”
Juho thought of the eccentric author. Dressed in black, red lipstick, preferred her steak well-done, and a wine drinker. However, he couldn’t remember her face for some reason. Even when he put the bits of his memories of her together, they were simply not enough to help him remember, and Juho was well aware as to why. He knew the reason she had felt like she had been surrounded in fog when he had first met her, and he was looking forward to her portrayal of death.
How many people had been affected by her death? Juho remembered the media clamoring about her death. Before he had died, there was a time when she had taken her own life.
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