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“Pig Skin” by Andrés Felipe Solano

We have ended this term with quite a distinctive story by a Colombian author Andrés Felipe Solano. He has been residing in Korea for the past 10 years and currently teaches at the Literature Translation Institute of Korea. The essay called “Korea: Notes from the Tightrope” (written in Spanish) received a Colombian Narrative Library Award and was later translated into Korean. He depicts the Korean society from an expatriate’s perspective. He has so far written three novels, the latest dealing with a Colombian veteran of the Korean War.

This unique story unfolds on a ferry between Busan and Osaka. The key in this story is the element of “in between”: between South Korea and Japan; between America and Russia; imagination and reality. The narrator in the story, who is from Colombia and lives in South Korea, rides a ferry to go to Osaka to pay homage to Buraiha writers, notably Sakunosuke Oda. Buraiha School represents sex, drugs, and self-destruction to him. On the ferry, he meets a mysterious character called Park Bong, who is a former spy and now a detective. The protagonist is assigned a task by him and… Park Bong. He could be an amalgamation of an actor, a saint, and a fox. Who is he? Is he real or the product of imagination? Apart from South Korea and Japan, America, Russia, Vietnam, the Philippines appear. What do they each signify? This story has a certain je ne sais quoi. Gripping and electrifying. What captures me is probably the fact that it grapples with the theme of identity. If I borrow a phrase of Edward Said, the “out of place” voice talks to me directly as that of Osamu Dazai (another Buraiha writer) does. Such a refreshing story by a Colombian author with the combination of magic realism and Japanese Buraiha together with the cosmopolitan nature of Busan. I strongly recommend this story! I will definitely read more of his works. The next term will begin from February 19 and we’ll be reading and discussing writers such as Toh Enjoe, Yukiko Motoya, and Adam Johnson.

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