Deep Blue Night by Choe In -Ho : A Book Review

IMG_20130104_111035“Los Angeles is a fictitious place; it does not exist in this world.”

-In-ho Choe, Deep Blue Night-

This line caught my imagination, reminding me  of Carlos Bulosan’s poem, “I Want the Wide American Earth,”  in which he expressed his  Marxist  desires that the world be  like American, that all  countries had no abject poverty, that all were socially and economically equal . He had the perception that America had this prosperous life since   it was the  richest country in the world during  his generation, so the American Dream  came into existence.

Lost Angeles is  a melting pot  in the  US where you can meet  different races of the world. If you plan to migrate  to America, there is the best place you should choose for a greener  pasture. You are for sure secure from some problems because  you can turn to your “ kababayan”  ( countryman ) for help ( if you have this  bayanihan ( cooperative endeavor )  and damayan  ( mutual sympathy ) culture, typical of Filipinos overseas )  just like what happened to the story  of this book.

Jun-ho and Hyeong are both Koreans who ventured  to the US  to escape their  shady pasts.  Jun-Ho  was  a tourist  who  had the opportunity to travel to the US  to take his mind off the bitter experiences he had left behind  in Korea. He used to be a popular and successful  musician but  past his prime eventually due to taking  marijuana.  However, he ended up flat broke   for he had squandered all his money. To make ends meet, he tried to do the same job  in some States in the US  but backslid to his bad shadows . In the end, he became an exile from one  State to another. To survive, he needed to get to Los Angeles by   stolen car, believing that someone  or something there could help him back to Korea. Accidentally, on his way, he met Hyeong who has little description in the story.

It is now my second book of The Portable Library of Korean Literature translation. Comparatively, its prose and tone are heavier and more   emotionally indifferent than of the A Dwarf Launches a Ball by Cho Se-hui. The latter one, on the other hand, is lighter and more gently heartbreaking. In addition, the narration of the story is somehow misleading. You could have the idea that the  narrator is Hyeong,  but  there seems to be another unknown narrator, telling the other part of the story.

In a simpler perspective, you might take it literally that   the story has something to do with what an exiled tourist experiences in a country that is alienated to him. I could buy that way though. However, I want to put it on the fact that I liked the way Cho In-Ho used the persona of   Jun-ho  in the story ; he  embodies people who,  like him , are  unable to move up on to the next step of their life where they got in a conundrum- people ,who have been torn , unknowing where and how they should turn over a new leaf  with the fact that they have been bothered by a pang of conscience for the things they have committed, but in the end, with their heuristic moments, would realize that they have been taken possession of their  “ seven deadly sins”,  innocence, or ignorance.  The story, in the other words,  is an epitome of  the existential point of view that “ Life is a matter of moral choice.”

All the rage in the story is the car they rode on a journey  . For me it represents the vehicle of their life. No matter what happens , you can pull up along the road and chill out, then keep on driving. Moreover, in order to add fuel to the energy, you should make a fortune regardless of how much it could be. Otherwise, you would remain stagnant unless you choose it to be that way.

 In fact, reading it reminded me of the drop-out students in our village or somewhere   else where I usually meet around. I have this imaginary judgment that they must be prejudiced as shiftless or the dregs of humanity. But, Mac, do not judge such people. Like what I have put above: “ They  do not know HOW  and WHERE to begin.” Just like what happened to Jun-ho in the story.

I really liked the story because I can relate to it. Like both the main characters above, there are times that  I am in the  bad habit  of running away from my  bitter experience or from whatever a fait accompli I leave behind  that  I regret I should not have done . Rather, I  leave it unresolved ,  trying to keep up appearances until  I come to a standstill. Nevertheless, upon reading it, I have learned more that  the life I may be choosing is not optimal at all. (sighs!)

As far as I learned, the story is the author’s autobiography. In other words, this must be the product of his feelings he  must have had suppressed for a long time. As a result, it is a beautifully written masterpiece. ^^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )



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