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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
The three began to run at similar paces. Although it was a trail that they were all well acquainted with, running with more people than usual made it a different experience. Because they were running while matching each others’ paces, the speed wasn’t quite there. The trees in the background rushing past them were all dressed for the cold. After a brief silence, Baron broke the ice, “I heard you write as well.”
“Yes, I do,” Sung Pil said, answering clearly.
“Are you in a Literature Club at your school or anything?”
“No. We don’t have one.”
With that, the conversation came to an abrupt end. The encounter of the two least sociable people Juho knew was proving to be a lot more intense. As the three ran in silence, Sung Pil opened his mouth next.
“Congratulations on graduating.”
And just like that, the conversation ended once again, and Juho had to try desperately to hold back the laughter. They were both like logs. In the end, Juho stepped in.
“How are things looking with your piece?”
“So-so. The more I write, the more I see what I lack,” Sung Pil said, staying within the subject that time.
“Still going to the bank?”
“Of course. I’ll keep going until I finish writing at least. Lately, I’ve been visiting another bank in another neighborhood, too. One might think that there wouldn’t be any differences, but there were.”
With that, Sung Pil began to share his story about his visits to a bank. Then, Baron interjected and asked why he had been going to the banks, and Sung Pil answered in a detailed and friendly manner. That time, the conversation went on for quite a while. Although there were still remnants of awkwardness, it was a significant improvement when compared to a moment ago. Listening quietly, Juho repeated the process of chiming in at the time their conversations would cut off, and so far, Sung Pil and Baron didn’t seem to have such terrible impressions of each other.
“Speaking of which, I have a question regarding my school’s tuition.”
“Oh, that’s beyond my knowledge.”
Hearing Sung Pil’s detailed description of his visits to the banks, Baron eventually began to treat him as a financial adviser. When listening to Sung Pil’s story, it was only natural for one to want to ask him questions regarding money.
At that moment, they reached the place where Sung Pil and Juho had once raced previously. Juho glanced at Baron in passing. He had vivid memories of the recent graduate’s ability as a runner and he would be hard pressed to beat him. In the end, Juho decided to remain quiet and not suggest a race. That is…
“Why don’t we race?”
… until Sung Pil made the fearless suggestion. At that, Juho let out a sigh.
“He’s fast, you know,” Juho warned Sung Pil, but he simply nodded, and Baron was already wearing a bright smile, revealing his white teeth.
“It’s cold out today, so why don’t we just keep it at this pace?” Juho said in order to discourage them. However, the two logs had already started burning.
“Losers write their names with their butts?”
“Kind of childish, isn’t it?”
The world always leaned toward the majority opinion. The race, which began all too suddenly, was quite close until midway, when Baron began to pull ahead. By the time Juho was about to catch up to him, the race came to an awkward end as Sung Pil stepped on a patch of ice and plummeted to the ground.
While the three were catching their breaths, Sung Pil said while rubbing his butt, “That hurt.”
There was no trace of humiliation on his face, and the only thing that was left broken was the patch of ice on the ground.
“Well, that was fun,” Baron murmured while buying cups of warm drinks from the vending machine.
“Thank you, sir.”
Breathing white steam out of their mouths, the three sat down briefly, planning on being on their way before the sweat cooled their bodies.
Then, Sung Pil opened his mouth and said, “Recently, I read that Geun Woo Yoo won the Dong Kyung Literary Award this year.”
“Yeah, I read that article, too.”
Juho had sent him a congratulatory text. When they talked on the phone, Geun Woo had sounded rather excited. The man who had pushed himself deep into regret was finally seeing the light of day. He was also quite fond of his own writing.
“I guess that means it’s time to find out who’s getting the Literary Award,” Sung Pil murmured. At which point, Juho remembered hearing that his piece had been chosen as a candidate for the Rational Literary Award.
“I’m sure Yun Woo will get the award this year for his short story. The Rational Literary Award tends to lean toward short stories.”
“‘River’ was excellent.”
Then, Juho locked eyes with Baron. While a gradual smile appeared on Juho’s face, Baron looked away, drinking his beverage. Soon, at the thunderous roar that came from Sung Pil’s stomach, the three headed for a nearby restaurant.
“Sigh,” Professor Kong let out, looking at the scenery rushing past the windows of the taxi. The Rational Literary Award. According to the result of the survey that had been conducted among authors, the Rational Literary Award was considered to be the most honorable of all literary awards in Korea, and only short stories published within a year of the award were considered.
That year, he had been chosen as one of the judges for the finals of the Rational Literary Award. At the place where the taxi he was in was headed to, were the pieces that had survived the preliminary rounds of the judging committee.
Because he had received a list from the committee, the professor was already aware of the surviving pieces, and the results were simply unheard of. Every single piece that was in a single literary magazine had been chosen as candidates, and the first thing that came out of the professor’s mouth when he saw the list was a heavy sigh.
“Turn left,” the GPS’s voice sounded from the front of the taxi, carried along with the heat from the heater. The reason Professor Kong didn’t find the results surprising was because there had been a part of him that had expected it. The number of subscribers a literary magazine possessed was also an important quality in the Rational Literary Award, as it indicated how much appeal the magazine had to the masses. On top of that, the professor, himself, had read the magazine ‘The Beginning and the End.’ Every single piece in that magazine had been a gem, and on top of that, it was also the very magazine responsible for starting the literary magazine fad in bookstores.
Then, he took a piece of paper out of his bag. Because San Jung Youn, Dae Soo Na, Sang Choi, Seo Joong Ahn, and Dong Gil Uhm were previous winners of the award, they were being considered for the Specialty Award, while Joon Soo Bong, Mideum Choo, Geun Woo Yoo, and Yun Woo remained as candidates. Both awards would be given to only one author.
The authors who had either been critically acclaimed or harshly criticized in the past had somehow been able to make the most out of their potentials as writers, and within the same magazine on top of that. Regardless of what award it was, judging the winners had never been so difficult in the history of an award’s judging committee, and frankly, it wouldn’t be strange if any of the nine were chosen as the winner.
“Sigh,” he let out once again, like a habit. Usually, it would be something to be excited about, but as a judge, that excitement was a luxury as he had the obligation to rank each of the candidates. Somehow, and out of nowhere, the professor found himself being responsible for judging the superior piece.
The face being reflected on the window of the taxi looked quite exhausted, and having gotten little to no sleep the night before, that was only natural.
In reality, a lot of the literary awards in the country were quite controversial even among the literary society. There were quite a few awards that didn’t judge its candidates fairly, while others were flat out questionable as awards. Unfortunately, flaws existed even among awards with longer histories as the standards by which the judges judged the candidates became unclear and ambiguous, causing controversy. What was meant to contribute to the development of literature had turned into something that ate away at the sincerity of literature. Books that shouldn’t have been recognized had been brought to light, while the books that deserved to be out in the light were forgotten in the dark. Books that contained unconditional praise toward a political figure tended to win an award when those that had nothing to do with politics weren’t even considered. Due to those reasons, authors began to turn down awards, and more and more literary societies had been declaring no winners. There were extremely few literary awards that maintained their original intentions and traditions, and the Rational Literary Award was one of them.
It was that very award, that Professor Kong would end up judging, and it came to him as a hefty burden. It was no wonder that he couldn’t stop sighing. He looked through the list of candidates, the pieces written by Geun Woo Yoo, Mideum Choo, Dong Gil Uhm, Seo Joong Ahn, Dae Soo Nah, Sang Choi, Joon Soo Bon, San Jung Youn, and Yun Woo.
Despite his lack of experience, Geun Woo Yoo had successfully made the most out of his strength as an author. His writing was like a sad movie that the professor craved from time to time, and whenever he felt that way, Geun Woo’s books were just the thing. As the winner of the Dong Kyung Literary Award of that year, word about him had been spreading to more people.
In the case of Mideum Choo, she usually excelled in writing books that appealed to the masses. However, in her piece in ‘The Beginning and the End,’ she had managed to strike a fine balance in literary value. With its distinctive nature, memorable story, and the subject of death, the readability of her books spoke for itself.
On the other hand, Dong Gil Uhm’s books tended to be more hard-boiled, and his story tended to be the most rigid and dry within ‘The Beginning and the End.’ Professor’s Kong’s preferences happened to lean toward this direction, and the sentences written with an objective language allowed its readers to expand their imagination. It had to be, perhaps, the style most capable of carrying emotions at the deepest level.
On the contrary, Seo Joong Ahn was just the opposite of Dong Gil Uhm. His writing had the power to soften up the readers from within, and as one followed the path the author had paved in his books, they were often rewarded with a touching moment. On top of that, there were original sequences throughout his books that kept the readers stimulated. His most recent novel, ‘One Room,’ was proof that Seo Joong had evolved as an author and was capable of writing an even deeper story.
Dae Soo Na. The decision to read her novels often followed a thorough schedule check. Before or after a meal were some of the worst possible times to read Dae Soo’s novels. However, the professor couldn’t help but read them anyway, despite the trouble he would go through. On the other hand, the best time to read her novels was on a summer night. If the evaluation had taken place on a summer night, he wouldn’t have been able to fight off the temptation to reach for her novel.
Sang Choi, AKA Choi, was an author known as a romance writer. His portrayal of love had a lot in common with puzzles and Jenga. Reading his books felt like putting the pieces together, one by one, like building a tower, and after repeating the process of collapsing and scattering the pieces, the tower grew taller and sturdier. The author’s unique take on relationships was rather sophisticated and dignified.
Joon Soo Bong was one of the authors on the rise as of late. His sentences tended to remind readers that he really was a pupil of Yun Seo Baek. Having a strong obsession toward vocabulary, his sentences were irreplaceable. Every word had its place, and replacing them with other words often resulted in awkward-sounding sentences. Due to his recent success, everyone in the country had to know him.
“San Jung Youn,” Professor Kong let out with a sigh, brushing the back of his neck as he remembered her piece, which had been near perfect in quality, fitting of her title as the first Korean winner of the international award in Italy. However, the professor wasn’t quite fond of her piece. It might very well have been his personal opinion, but he couldn’t help but feel that something was seriously wrong. There was an unusually short gap between her most recent novel and her piece in the magazine, her first short story in several years, something that left one feeling uncomfortable and subject.
The shared topic among the authors of ‘The Beginning and the End’ had been death, and the author who had written the most appropriate short story on the subject had to be…
… Yun Woo. At that moment, the taxi made a sudden stop, and the driver drove on as if nothing had happened. After looking ahead briefly, Professor Kong rolled down the window. The breeze rushing in was quite cold but refreshing at the same time, clearing up the interior of the car made stuffy by the heater. At that, the professor let out a sigh yet again.
“Are you going through something?” the driver asked, and with an awkward smile, the professor answered, “Yes. Something complicated.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” the driver said, and immediately moved on to his own story. As the professor showed some response, he began to explain why he had become a taxi driver, and while listening absentmindedly, the professor wrestled with his mind.
Yun Woo was a genius author who was very much comparable to the previous winners and the current candidates of that year. To be precise, comparable wasn’t a fair assessment. The thoughts within his writing alone were enough to send chills down the professor’s spine.
After the literary magazine had been published, debates among professors about his writing had spread like a fad. His skill and his stories defied his age, and his recent short story, ‘River,’ gave readers the impression that the author had actually died once. The short story was capable of planting such unrealistic doubt in the hearts of its readers.
Professor Han had brought up, in all seriousness, the possibility of a ghostwriter or of the author lying about his age. Then, the professors, intoxicated by the alcohol and the occasion, began to pour out their absurd predictions. A foreigner, an alien, ghostwritten by their parents, working secretly with the publisher, publishing a manuscript that had been abandoned at some point, a magic pen or magic paper, time traveling, doping, the reincarnated version of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe or Leonardo Da Vinci, Mozart writing novels instead of music, a fairy that flew around the author, giving hints, and so on.
Professor Kong was responsible for making the claim that was relatively more reasonable than the others: the time-machine theory. In hindsight, it was all too embarrassing.
“So, my business fell apart with the economy…” the driver kept on with his life story, and the taxi went forth just as unhindered as the driver. Professor Kong had to decide which of the nine pieces would receive the award before he reached his destination. At that moment, his phone rang, and thanks to that, the driver’s life story was put on hold just like the anguish that was going on within the professor’s mind.
It was one of the judges asking for his ETA. Then, explaining that he was still in a taxi, but that he was nearby, the professor hung up the phone. Looking at the view rushing past, the professor let out yet another sigh.
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