The Other Side of Dark Remembrance is an inventive novella that uses its structural cleverness to serve a deeply emotional denouement.
It opens in a satiric vein. A completely thrashed salaryman wakes up with a killer hangover. He doesn’t know where he is, his suit’s filthy, and worst of all, he’s lost a set of crucial documents. Unless he can find them, his firm may go under and he will certainly lose his hard-earned job.
The plot unfolds much like that of the American comedy, The Hangover. He has to retrace his steps through the bars, restaurants, clip joints and quasi bordellos that he wandered through the night before. He meets with anger, amusement, and, finally, sympathy as he tries to reconstruct what the hell happened to him the night before.
As he investigates the recent past of his weekend debauch, a second, more distant past begins to open up: that of his childhood and of Korea’s history. The tone shifts. We grow to know this man beyond his job title, beyond his bourgeois strivings. He becomes specifically human, and his story is one that moved me deeply.
Lee Kyun-young’s skills serve his novella impeccably. He pulls off a real narrative feat, but you never notice until the end how well he has constructed his book.
You should read it. A whole world of noodle shops, backyards, offices, good time girls, and orphanages will open up to you. You’ll learn, and feel, a chapter of Korea’s dark history.
But you just may have your heart broken.