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The Weary Flight from Youth: The Bird by Oh Jung-Hee


Oh Jung-hee is one of the most prominent Korean woman writers. She made her literary debut with the short story “Woman of the Toy Store” in 1968, and since then has written notable works, such as Garden of Childhood, Chinatown, The Old Well, and The Bird. In 2003, The Bird, a full-length novel, was published in Germany for which she was awarded the LiBeratur Literary Prize. It was the first time that a Korean writer received a foreign literary prize. Since then, The Bird has been translated into German, French, English, Russian, Dutch, Basque, and Croatian. Oh Jung-hee’s novels are known for her assiduous reflections on universal issues, a description of the inner landscape, and the flow of memory told in a delicate prose. The Bird, is a unique coming-of-age, or anti-coming-of-age novel. Generally speaking, a long novel is symbolic of the world that the protagonist encounters. The main character undergoes a wide range of experiences in life to gain maturity. But for the two protagonist siblings, Umi and Uil, their world is limited to a system of exclusion, if not organized violence. Their mother deserted them, and their father disappeared after leaving them at a train station. The only thing that the brother and sister, not under anyone’s protection, could do is to hide in the dark shadows of the world. Umi and Uil grow up in a world of violence and darkness. And it is into this darkness that Uil disappears and Umi stands still, with a sliver of hope of seeing the distant stars.


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