A Dwarf Launches a Little Ball : by Cho Se-Hui: A Book Review

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” People called father a dwarf. They were right. Father was a dwarf. Unfortunately, people were right only about that. They weren’t right anything else…”

-Cho Se-Hui, A Dwarf Launches a Little Ball-

When it comes to reading books which themes have something to do with physical  deformities such as dwarfism, the condition of abnormal growth as  what we learned from Genetics,  the best examples are  novels  reflecting in social life of India such as A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry and  A  Son of the Circus by  American novelist, John Irving  .  I can understand that such body condition can exist in India   where the  scenes of poverty are probably,  in theory, the leading factor. However, in a developed and industrialized country as well as  heralded as  the “Electronics Capital of the World”, South Korea, such idea is  inconceivable. Perhaps, I have never met any  Korean students  with this  genetic  disease yet.  Besides, as far  as I learned, the Korean government provides its citizens with good health services. In other words, all of them can have free access to  life and health services. So, I was just deluded into the fact that all Koreans were “physically” perfect. That is why I was flabbergasted by  the  title  of this book which  has something to do with a dwarf. In the end, the setting of the story was when South Korea was still a poor country.

In an impoverished neighborhood in the outskirts of  Seoul, there was  a dwarf whose name was Kim Bur-ri, living as a head of his family. Ironically, the name of the place was Happiness District, Paradise County. Eventually, the neighborhood would go into redevelopment  as part of South Korea’s industrialization at that time. Kim Bu-ri’s house would  be one of the houses to be demolished. But the heart of the matter was how each member of the family, particularly  the dwarf’s three children would struggle desperately to restore the broken pieces  of their lives brought about by  the political-economic dilemmas.

The style of the story has a little resemblance to Japanese stories.  (Probably , Japanese literature influenced Korean  literature or vice-versa. ) The tone is  dead-flat, direct but quite soft and calm. It is not that strong   as what I feel in other novels. Besides, it is a combination of realism and fantasy which adds literary excitement to a reader like me. In addition, the flow of the story   is meditating and cathartic , typical of a writer who releases his burden feelings  with the practice of yoga or Zen meditation. Thus, it is not that boring as I had expected .  I wonder if the pathos is the same as the original  Korean version.

“Misconduct, corruption, bureaucratic cleanup – there was a time when those words appeared almost daily in the newspaper. Only then did the family in back lower the volume on their TV. They stowed away their refrigerator, washer, piano, tape player, and other such possessions in the basement and brought out their old clothes to wear in public.”

-Cho Se-Hui, A Dwarf Launches a Little Ball-

If I  try to understand the deeper part of the story without much knowledge of the Korean history, the concept  deals with how  social changes  like industrialization affect human life, particularly a family. In the story, figuratively, dwarf Kim Bur-ri  symbolizes poor and socially  marginalized people , lagging behind the political-economic changes. What happens is how the impact of the  industrialization  affects   the family values. In the story, Kim Bu-ri came to the point that he ended up losing his dignity by working as a dwarf acrobat.

As I am falling to reading Eastern literature such as Japanese and  Korean literature , I come to the realization that there is really something unique  about the novels  written by East Asian writers. Sometimes, I conclude that as the History serves, all eastern Asian nations were one place. So, hypothetically, they had the same culture and customs.

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

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