TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr. März 2010

Sektion 1.4. New Multi-society and Cultural Integration in Asia and Europe | Die neue multikulturelle Gesellschaften und die kulturelle Integration in Asien und Europa
Sektionsleiterin | Section Chair: Rhie Hae Za (Kunsan National University, Korea)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

The Polyphony of Anatolij Kim’s Narrative

Kim Hyun Taek (Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, Korea) [BIO]



1. Korean Diaspora in Russian Culture

The year 2007 marks the 70th anniversary of Korean deportation in Soviet Union. In 1937 Stalin ordered that all Koreans living in the maritime area of Russian territory be moved to Central Asia. Most of them were descendents of Koreans who had crossed the border in 1880s and had settled down in Russian territory to cultivate the land. Stalin’s decision was made under the pretext that Koreans there were involved with spy activities for Japan. The tragic stories about the long train journey from Far East to Central Asia and the horrible living conditions for Koreans in the wasteland of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are now known to us through memoirs, recently declassified official documents and documentary films.

Koreans thrown out into the barren land in Central Asia impressed other nationalities with their tenacious efforts to irrigate the wasteland and to change it into the most productive Soviet state farms of those years. Even today the onions produced by Koreans are regarded of best quality in Russia. The number of Korean Diaspora in Russia and former Soviet Republics totals around 400 thousands. Koreans are generally in high repute as hardworking and highly educated nationality. According to some Soviet statistics Koreans surpassed even Jews in the percentage of getting higher education.

Korean Diaspora was represented in Russian cultural scene as well. Roman Kim was a popular Soviet writer in the 1950s and 1960s. His novels about spy episodes and Korean War were politically oriented and loyal to official Soviet ideology. Yulij Kim, one of the most famous bards (who writes poetry and sings his poems with guitar) in 1970s, enjoyed a great popularity among college students and intelligentsia with his philosophical and satirical works. Viktor Choi is remembered as a creative artist of great influence who opened a new path in Russian rock music. The memorial wall on the Arbat Street in the heart of Moscow, dedicated to this short-lived and talented musician of Korean origin, still continues to draw many admirers. Nikolaj Shin, a Korean artist in Uzbekistan, is regarded as a great talent who created the monumental representation of the tragic history of Korean Diaspora in Russia through a series of pictures. Anatolij Kim(1939- ) makes an exceptional Korean figure in Russian cultural life, since he emerged as one of the most prominent writers in 1980s. His literary success is   remarkable if we consider the competitive and conservative atmosphere of Soviet literary practice. A dramatic story on the prolonged, thorny road he had gone through to become a major Russian writer is well illustrated in his autobiographical essay My Past [A. Kim, Moe proshloe: povest’. pp. 321-557.]. He also received an international recognition through translations into 22 languages. Some of his works are included in Russian high school textbooks and a number of doctoral dissertations were written on his literary world in Russia, France, Germany, Japan, America, and in Korea.

Born as a third generation descendent of Korean immigrants in Russia A. Kim made his literary debut in early 1970s with two short stories titled Watercolor Painting and Wild Rose of Myoko featuring Korean motifs and mentality. So far he has published more than 90 short stories, 8 novellas, and 4 novels. Most of his major works surprised Russian critics with its innovative form and unique philosophical message. In his early short stories it was “not only the exotic quality of the past and present fates of his Korean landsmen on Sakhalin Island but also his lively style and his spiritual concern that attracted attention to him”[W. Kasack, Dictionary of Russian Literature Since 1917. p.173.]. Some Soviet critics harshly criticized the deconstruction of traditional time and space in his works as well as the prevalent mysticism which is opposed to the official Soviet ideology. On the other hand, the famous translator N. Liubimov and the influential critic L. Anninskij praised this writer’s literature as a new phenomenon in contemporary Russian literary scene.

This writer’s new literary world, characterized most of all by composition without traditional plot, lyricism, philosophical depth, and experimental narrative strategy, posed a challenge to the main stream of Soviet official literature. While most writers of that time were dealing with individuals as social beings in realistic style, A. Kim’s main emphasis was placed on the absurd existential situation of alienated individuals from a new perspective. And his narrative tends to explore the dynamic inner spiritual life of these individuals in a non-realistic style.


2. Anatolij Kim’s Text as Dialogic Space

Three biographical factors made a contribution in shaping A. Kim’s literary world: his exposure to other art genres (painting and music), identity crisis he experienced as a Russian writer of Korean origin, and finally his unique concept of space which was formed by his extensive travels across the vast Russian territory and by later trips to various foreign countries. At first this writer wanted to become a painter and studied at a prestigious Moscow art school. Before the graduation he suddenly decided to quit the painting, because, in his words, "I could not express what I hoped within the confines of canvas"[A. Kim, Journey into the Vast World, the Space of Existence, p. 244.]. His first fascination with painting genre is well described in the story Watercolor Painting where a nine year old boy happened to see an old Korean man drawing tigers on the white cloth. Delicate nuances of color and line which make the core of his detailed description originate from his training as a painter. And his love for Bach’s polyphonic music is closely related to the unique narrative voice, sometimes represented as ‘WE’ in his texts.

Critics immediately began to pay attention to this writer of oriental origin, since his every major work impressed them with experimental forms and philosophical depth which completely defy the established literary tradition. In his autobiographical essay A. Kim confesses that first of all he was relieved to hear the critic’s positive response on “his unique Russian literary language” [A. Kim, My Literature and My Life  p. 244.]. He was under incredible tension and frustration during the long search for his own literary voice, because he was genetically one hundred percent pure Korean. Interestingly enough, the writer confides that after enormous, futile efforts to imitate the style of classical Russian writers (especially A. Platonov), he finally found his own Russian language when he started to write about the fates of Koreans on Sakhalin Island.

The main psychological obstacle was his ambiguous identity. Born in Russia he never had a chance to see his motherland and has not even dreamed of visiting it. Nobody in Russian literary circle treated him as a Russian either. He was a Korean by blood and a Russian in official citizenship. But inwardly he was neither Korean (He dose not know Korean language.) nor Russian. In his words, if “Russia is his fatherland which raised and educated him, Korea is his motherland, the home of his soul.” And he “was always torn between these two countries, as if he lived between divorced parents” [A. Kim, Dream of a Morse, Dong-A Ilbo Feb. 3, 1990]. This identity crisis led him to pursue a new creative path. Searching for his place in this absurd situation, A. Kim went beyond the traditional boundaries of nation and country and reached a conclusion that should be Korean or Russian he belongs to the nation of ‘mankind’ and the country of ‘the earth’.

According to this view, each of us has two destinies: one is the individual life framed by one's birth and death; the other is the eternal life perpetuated by the whole mankind under the will of God. While the first is the unique individual life which takes place only once in the whole history of universe, the second is an everlasting, ever enlarging grandiose life in which each of us takes part. Thus A. Kim's literary world tries to explore the mysterious, boundless cosmos which exists in his character's inner spiritual space. He was a Soviet heretic, since his literature dared to fathom the boundless inner cosmos of alienated individuals in totalitarian Soviet system.

Born in Sergievka, a small village of Tiulkubas region in Southern Kazakhstan, A. Kim was destined, thanks to his father who was a school teacher, to see the various ends of vast Russian territory. He spent his childhood in Far East (Kamchatka, Sakhalin), studied art in Moscow, served in the army as a guard at prison camp in the southern steppe, and later worked as a dispatcher of party political posters who could crisscross the whole Russia (Central Asia, Crimea, Caucasus in the south; Murmansk and Leningrad in the north; Belorussia, Ukraine in the west; Tuba, Baikal, Buriat in the east. The trips to these remote areas enabled him to find not only the differences but also similarities and interconnectedness among different peoples and various cultures. Therefore in his stories places far apart from each other coexist hand by hand. And they are described as if they are located in the same space. For instance, in his story When the Almond Tree Blossoms the writer juxtaposes the heavy snowfall in Kamchatka with the blossoming spring in Kazakhstan in the same paragraph, thus unifying two different spaces into an artistic one.

A chronological review of A. Kim’s stories reveals that his literary world makes an evolutionary development in terms of themes and stylistics. His fictional space moves from Russian Far East to Central Russia, to Moscow, and later on even to foreign countries. His early works first of all feature Koreans in Far East as main characters. And his later stories gradually begin to include Russians living in both rural and urban area, and sometimes even foreigners abroad. Realistic style of earlier period is transformed into an innovative one with multi-layered fantastic elements. As the result the readers find A. Kim’s fictional world saturated with different races, geographical locations, and, most importantly, cultural traditions.

The most important aspect of A. Kim’s literature is his keen attention to the inner spiritual world of specific individuals. Regardless of protagonist’s ethnic background, temporal and spatial setting, the writer pays his close attention to such ‘cursed questions’ of human existence as “Who am I?”, “Where I am from?”, and “Where am I going to after death?” And his each story tries to probe the trajectory of individual’s spiritual search for life’s meaning. This spiritual search is activated through the dynamic interaction between individuals with different cultural backgrounds. And this aspect of A. Kim’s literary world can be well explained in the framework of M. Bakhtin’s concept of polyphony.

Discussing Bakhtin’s thought, Clark and Holquist explain, “The systematic aspects of language are to speech as the material world is to mind. Thus they differ from each other but always operate together. The two sets of features interact in a dynamic unity and cannot without conceptual violence be separated from each other. The arena where they intermingle and the force that binds them are both what Bakhtin understands by ‘utterance’ ” [K. Clark and M. Holquist. Mikhail Bakhtin. p.222.]. Therefore, the novel can be regarded as an arena, as well as a force of interaction. It is a framework of discourse in which a multitude of voices are brought together for dialogical interaction. The manner in which those voices are set off one against the other constitutes the novel’s polyphonic form. When dealing with polyphonic form, then, we deal with a spatial rather than a chronological structure, a point that Bakhtin stresses with respect to Dostoevsky’s novels [M. Bakhtin. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. p.28.].

According to Bakhtin, “all relationships among external and internal parts and elements of his (Dostoevsky’s) novel are dialogic in character, and he structured the novel as a whole as a ‘great dialogue’ “[M. Bakhtin. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. p.40.]. The dialogue takes place with the other, the world, spirit, and oneself both within and beyond the novel. In Bakhtin’s view dialogical structure and polyphonic form are same, as he declares “the polyphonic novel is dialogic through and through” [M.  Bakhtin. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. p.40.]. Polyphonic form is here intrinsic to meaning, which is grounded in a process of listening and response. A. Kim’s literature which explores the way his character seeks for an ultimate answer to the so-called ‘cursed questions’ abounds in dialogic interaction between voice-consciousnesses.

The most representative case of this kind can be found in the story A Flash of Lightening in the City. This story describes a by-chance meeting between a poet from India and an aged Muscovite. In Moscow on a summer day the Indian poet was forced to shelter himself under the roof of kiosk to avoid the unexpected heavy rain. Next to him stood an aged, humble looking Russian whom he has seen often during his stroll on boulevards. Even though being anxious to talk to this old man, the young poet could not but standing silent, because his neighbor did not pay any attention to the foreigner. At that moment all of sudden an eye-blinding lightening flashed across the sky, and a thundering roar followed. Both of them saw how a big tree nearby was hit and broken by the lightening. This event brought these two men together. The lightening initiates the live dialogue between them who stood side by side as completely separate individuals just before. The invisible barrier which divided them disappears. And like close friends they start to talk about their common interests (the beautiful life on earth, love of mankind, and peace). When the rain stopped, they went on their ways, but now being changed into new individuals spiritually interconnected with each other.

As A. Kim writes, “Momentarily, like the recent flash of lightening, they experienced the unexpected mutual understanding in spite of temporal, spatial, and ethnic barriers” [A. Kim, A Flash of Lightening in the City p. 124.]. Thus reality for A. Kim is not something we observe, nor is it a strictly subject construct. Rather it arises between mind and the object, so that the reality is a product of the interaction between author and the world. And his characters undergo various stages of inner change, in which dialogue between voice-consciousnesses is constantly at work.


3. Polyphonic Voice of ‘WE’

A. Kim's literature is characterized by his linguistic personality, experimental narrative technique, destruction of traditional time and space, and Weltanschauung with cosmic vision. All his works, though with thematic variations, purport to trace the dramatic change of human soul, which in its turn liberates individual from his loneliness and alienation and finally leads to the unity of whole mankind. Clarifying his view on literature in an interview, he says “I don’t like the ordinary stories on everyday life and am not interested in those stories. Some people say that life itself is boring. Our life might be boring, if we are confined only within limited time and limited experience” [Interview with A. Kim: The Legend of Breath, p .121.]. It becomes clear that his literature tries to depict a dramatic scene beyond limited time and experience of the empirical world.

The central question revolving around A. Kim’s literature is closely connected with ‘I’ and ‘WE’. In earlier works he introduces the narrative voice ‘WE’ as a common consciousness which penetrates into other characters and makes them sympathize with each other. Later on, in his mature novellas such as Onion Field and Lotus the collective narrative voice ‘WE’ is represented as the accumulation of good energy which the whole mankind shares. And in his latest novels this unique narrative voice submerges under the narrative surface, but still functions ubiquitously.

The narrative voice ‘WE’ is central in deciphering the messages of A. Kim’s literature, since the relationship between ‘I’ and ‘WE’ constitutes the backbone of his poetics and themes. In the context of this relationship we can grasp unique features of A. Kim’s literature: the coexistence of specific national peculiarities with universal common traits, the new concept of collective ‘WE’ which organically connects individuals all together, and the reconstruction of temporal and spatial structure.

In his novella Herb Collectors the writer metaphorically explains ‘the good energy accumulated in the natural world’: “Our earth is not only surrounded by air, electric waves, and light. It is also surrounded by enormous energy. If a good man leaves the earth, the good energy surrounding the earth increases accordingly.  And it continues without an end” [A. Kim Herb Collectos> p. 315.]. This idea of ever increasing good energy is indebted to Russian philosopher V. Vernadskij’s concept of ‘biosphere and noosphere’ [V. Vernadskij, Nachalo i vechnost’ zhizni p. 294.]. While biosphere is a organic system including all flora and fauna on the earth, noosphere is equivalent to the whole mental energy of all living things. A. Kim’s collective narrative voice ‘WE’ belongs to the noosphere which bears the good energy.

A. Kim’s introduction of ‘WE’ to his narrative was an innovation and a big challenge to Soviet literary practice. Most of his contemporary writers were mainly concerned with the individual’s place and role in society, since they viewed individuals first of all as societal beings. In western tradition the collective ‘we’ is always equated with the negation of individual personality. ‘I’ and ‘we’ constitute the opposing poles. So the collective ‘we’ has been praised mostly in totalitarian society. E. Zamiatin’s anti-utopian novel We well illustrates the future life in which the collective system destroys individuals. On the other hand, in democratic society the free individuals are destined to live a lonely life, separated and alienated from each other. Individualism has, in its turn, faced its own crisis. Therefore, A. Kim’s ‘WE’ is designed as a new narrative technique and thematic thrust to explore a new framework of consciousness. His concept of ‘WE’ is double-edged, since it negates both totalitarianism and individualism, pursuing the harmony between ‘I’ and ‘WE’.

In music ‘polyphony’ is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice (monophony) or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords (homophony). Polyphony became dominant in Baroque music, especially in Bach. And it is not a coincidence that A. Kim wrote a novel titled Collecting Mushroom, Listening to the Music of Bach. The collective narrative voice ‘WE’ can be well explained by the concept of musical polyphony, since it represents the different voices and at the same time harmonizes them.

       In his short story Adventures of MNS A. Kim experiments with the collective narrative voice ‘WE’ for the first time. The story tells about an ordinary staff member of Soviet research institute Vadim Nikolaevich. He was not successful in his career and could not marry his beloved woman. In short he lives an unsuccessful life. The story line includes nothing but his business trip to the city where lives his former wife Liudmila. They were divorced 8 years ago. This seemingly simple story changes into a complicated narrative with the help of A. Kim’s polyphonic narrative structure. Traditionally the change of narrative voice is accompanied by the scene shift. However, Adventures of MNS unfolds a scene in which three different voices (they are located in different places as well) take part simultaneously.

As a result the reader feels like the protagonist Vadim Nikolaevich, his former wife Liudmila, and Vadim’s first love Liza exist in one place and are simultaneously occupied with their own works. By incorporating fragments of these three persons’ mundane life into one space, writer vividly shows the reason why each of them lives without happiness. The three characters seem to live different lives, but in fact they are living the same life without meaning. The writer’s message is well epitomized in the protagonist’s words in the story: “Since I selected this life, I will stand up, find ‘the man’ in myself, talk with him, love and respect him” [A. Kim, Adventures of MNS p. 607.]. Here we can find writer’s attitude toward the relationship between ‘I’ and ‘WE’. Specific individuals can attain the meaning of life, when they communicate with their inner-selves, and others, and when they at last find the common among them.

His major novella Lotus, exemplifying the core of his poetics, can be well explained by the concept of polyphony as well. The novella's story line is also very simple. Lokhov, a student at Moscow art school, visits his dying mother on Sakhalin Island whom he has abandoned for his ambition in the capital. Staying at Park's (Mother was married to this old man, while son was in Moscow.) for a few days, Lokhov suffers from the pangs of conscience and the horror of mother's imminent death. On the third day mother passes away. And after 15 years mother (who is dead) returns home to inform Park of his death. The novella says ‘WE’ sent mother to this world again. And it ends with the scene, when aged Lokhov later visits Sakhalin again on his way from Japan.

However, the mode of narration makes the seemingly simple story quite complex. It turns out that personal pronoun ‘I’ refers not only to ‘myself’, but also to ‘mother’ and to her husband ‘Park’. Sometimes ‘I’ even merges into the collective ‘WE’. Such use of ‘WE’ takes place, when Lokhov recognizes that death is not an end, but a process of transformation into a new being. The moment of reconciliation between mother and son is described in the following way: “(1) WE were sad to see the enormous sorrow of a person, and when (2)I touched the weeping son's face with my transparent wings, and when (2) I softly blew the calm sleep into his sparking eyes, (3)I leaned against mother's head and fell asleep” [A. Kim, Lotus p. 339.]. In this passage (2)I refers to Lokhov's mother who caresses her beloved son, while (3)I is Lokhov himself who gains calmness. The first person plural (1) WE refers to the abstract collective mankind as an inexhaustible source of good and sublime energy. Introducing this new narrative voice ‘WE’, A. Kim creates a polyphonic world of fiction.

The major novel of A. Kim The Squirrel made a sensation, when it was published in 1984. The authorities of then Soviet Writers Union harshly criticized it as an apparent challenge to the main stream of Soviet literature. On the other hand positive reviews welcomed the novel as a great work artistically representing the reality of Soviet 1980s with the use of folkloric and mythological motifs. This novel is about the four artists of Soviet period: the anonymous 000 and his three friends who study together at a Moscow art school.

Four artists, the anonymous hero 000, Dmitrij, Georgij, and Innokentij do their efforts to realize their ‘selves’ and to create the real art. These artists are surrounded by the influential figures of the   Soviet cultural arena. These people who are successful in their career are presented in the novel as various animals. These ferocious beasts, disguised as human beings, live only for wealth, glory, physical love and success.

The hero of this novel 000 is a squirrel who can change itself into a man, if he wants. The opposite process of metamorphosis is possible as well. The 000 is described as an orphan after the Korean War. Being capable of embracing the eternal time and endless space, he dreams of becoming a real artist. And he was born with a special ability to change himself into different being. The hero’s soul, once being   liberated from his physical body, is able to freely penetrate into the inner world of human beings and animals. In this way the hero has two voices: one is that of an anonymous person 000, and the other is that of the squirrel.

Being transformed into the squirrel, he intermingles himself with his friends. These individual artists, sometimes represented as ‘I’ (as we have seen in Lotus), are unified into the collective voice ‘WE’. Here ‘WE’ also symbolizes the sum of good energy produced by spiritual activities of human beings. The writer tells about the spiritual unity among four artists in the following way: “Perhaps our dreams were already interconnected with each other. From that day on, even though we existed in our own spaces and lived our own lives as separate physical beings, our spiritual life became one. And in this life our visions, dreams, memories, and fantasies merged into one. And we helped each other. Georgij’s memory became mine, the sick and strange fantasy of the squirrel became mine as well. Our dream of the future art became same” [A. Kim, The Squirrel p. 665.]. In the inner world of these four artists the aspiration to pursue real art and the bestial urge to survive coexist. This instinctive bestial desire called ‘the conspiracy of beasts’ is ubiquitous in disguised forms and is threatening to destroy the pure artistic talents by means of violence, egoism, and secular ambitions. Unfortunately the novel has a tragic ending, since all of four talented artists including the hero 000 fall prey to ‘the conspiracy of beasts.’ By creating the polyphonic narrative voice ‘WE’ A. Kim stood firmly against the materialist hypocritical Soviet reality of 1980s. “It is hard to imagine,” as P. Rollberg says, “a metaphor more revealing of Soviet system, a metaphor which is at the same time encompassing enough also to reveal the global situation of human­ity”[Peter Rollberg, Man Between Beast and God: Anatoly Kim's Apocalyptic Visions  p. 100.].


4. Heteroglossia of Diverse Cultural Voices

One of the major characteristics of A. Kim’s literature is its strong philosophical inclination. Unlike most Soviet writers in 1970s and 1980s his main focus was placed on the essential spiritual questions of human life: the identity of a human being, his alienation from others and from nature, and the life after death. In order to deal with these philosophical questions A. Kim often employs irrational, mystical elements in his literature. These fantastic elements originate from Oriental, more specifically, from Korean tradition.

In his childhood in Kazakhstan, A. Kim remembers, he heard many Korean folk tales narrated by old people [Interview with A. Kim: The Legend of Breath p. 120.]. These stories, in which the various spirits and supernatural beings appear and go through metamorphosis, had a great influence on the formation of his literature. We can find that the motifs of transformation and metamorphosis are used especially when the characters experience a dramatic spiritual change.

His early story The Wild Rose of Myoko is about Lee Gee-Chun, a Korean from Sakhalin. After his study in Moscow Lee returns to his native town as a successful, proud physicist. In fact his success was due to his wife Myoko’s self-sacrifice. Being left with their son on Sakhalin Island she worked day and night in the mink farm to support her husband Lee. While Lee was in Moscow she died of the poison spread after a mink bit her. In the evening Lee, who almost forgot his wife Myoko, suddenly begins to feel the strange smell from wife’s shabby coat. It is this strange smell that reminds him of his dead wife who lived all life only for her husband. And Lee wanders away to the shore, listening to Myoko’s calling. Next day his neighbors found Lee lying unconscious on the shore. In this way the realistic story line is switched into an unrealistic, mystic flow. And at this moment a simple story about life and death of a woman is magically transformed into a narrative reflecting on philosophical questions.

According to Bakhtin, polyphonic form is made up of heteroglossia __ stratification and opposition of discourses __ in tension with the unitary language style. “This stratification and heteroglossia, once realized,” he writes, “is not only a static invariant of linguistic life, but also what insures it’s dynamic: stratification and heteroglossia widen and deepen as long as language is alive and developing. Alongside the centripetal forces, the centrifugal forces of language carry on their uninterrupted work; alongside verbal-ideological centralization and unification, the uninterrupted process of decentralization and disunification go forward” [M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination. p. 272.]. The coexistence of realistic and fantastic narratives in A. Kim’s story constitutes the heteroglossia of diverging forces.

The short story The Watercolor Painting, an artistic credo for A. Kim, depicts the moment of artist’s birth. In Kamchatka a nine year old boy happened to see an old Korean man painting a tiger. And he feels as if a real tiger shows up before his eyes: “He (the painter) made two soft touches on the paper with his brush. Two black dots of different sizes permeated and spread the white paper. In a few seconds these two dots transformed into a pair of furiously sparking eyes, gradually expanding into a scary yellow-striped tiger with its jaws widely open”[A. Kim, The Watercolor Painting  p.331.]. Thus the future artist recognizes the essence of art through this process of imaginary metamorphosis. Another story The Smile of a Fox deals with the supernatural forces as well. A man educated in the capitol visits his remote village. At the evening gathering with his friends talk about the existence of the spirits of the dead persons. The hero from the city flatly ridicules at his friends’ belief that there exist supernatural beings. But on his way back home via cemetery he happens to meet a fox which lures him constantly into the wrong directions. There is an insinuation that the fox was a metamorphosed form of the wife of hero’s friend. As the result the hero is bewildered at his previous negation of supernatural forces.

In his major novella Lotus A. Kim tries to explore the thorny question on the life after death. For him, death is not the end of life, but a threshold into the eternal world. In his literature this process takes place through transformation and metamorphosis. As a child Lokhov saw “a green worm crawling on green leaf and thought as if green leaf changed into the worm” [A. Kim, Lotus pp. 262-263.]. This memory about the change of flora into fauna, a mysterious metamorphosis shapes the essence of his aesthetics. For him artist's mission is to capture the unifying principles between the ephemeral and the eternal, between the change and the permanence, and transform them into a new reality. The orange which Lokhov peels off in the shape of lotus and placed on dying mother's hand undergoes a symbolic metamorphosis. Traditionally lotus symbolizes the center of the sun or the center of universe. Therefore, by transforming a sad story about mother's death into a polyphonic text of Lotus  A. Kim provides a lay of bright light which leads us to the joyful world beyond death.

Lokhov, the hero in Lotus can be liberated from the spiritual agonies and scare at the threshold of mother’s imminent death, when he begins to see himself as a part of the whole universe. And this Weltanschauung was strongly influenced by Russian philosopher N. Fedorov and French philosopher P. Teilhard de Chardin. In his original interpretation of Christian beliefs, Fedorov maintains, the mankind will be free from the last judgment and the punishment, if they are all united as one to realize ‘the common work’ [Russkaia filosofiia : slovar’. pp. 531-532.]. Fedorov’s ideal vision is an immortal world where the living people freely communicate with the physical dead people (they are spiritually alive). A. Kim also mentions P. Teilhard de Chardin in some of his works. Our world is, on this French philosopher’s view, a unity where its every component is closely interconnected with each other. As the biosphere incorporates the entire bio-chemical system on the earth, the noosphere includes the whole mental activity of mankind [Russkaia filosofiia : slovar’. p. 334.].

Being influenced by these thoughts on the qualitative change of man and its surrounding world, A. Kim formulates the stages of physical and spiritual development. All biological beings belong to one of the four stages (before life-life-metaphysical state-transcendental life). And the man can develop into the collective ‘WE’ by going through three different stages (animal-man-changed real man). As the result the good energy which makes up our mental sphere will increase everlastingly.

The catalyst factor for the change of man is ‘love’ which appears repeatedly as leitmotif in his stories. This ‘love’ enables us to understand and recognize that we are the part of the whole world which surrounds us. And we can reach the immortality only through the confluence of individuals into ‘WE’. This process is made possible through different stages of changes, i.e. transformation and transfiguration. A. Kim’s major works such as Lotus , The Squirrel, and The Father Forest try to describe various spiritual trajectories of this spiritual unity between individuals and ‘WE’.

Along with the new narrative voice A. Kim tends to destroy the linear progress of time by intermingling the past, the present and the future together. Elimination of boundaries between the different tenses creates a fictional space where the reader can fly freely on the fluid temporal plane and experience a new life beyond the limitations of mundane life. Focusing on Dostoevsky’s mode of visualizing, Bakhtin emphasizes that “Dostoevsky saw and conceived his world primarily in terms of space, not time” [M. Bakhtin. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. p. 28.]. As crossroads and turning points become more important, the stasis of linear time gives way to the dynamic of novelistic space in A. Kim’s literature as well. When a voice coexists with and interacts with another voice, the chronological collapses into the instant, not as a particle of time but as an atom of eternity. The dynamic dialogue between a poet from India and an aged Russian in the story A Flash of Lightening in the City graphically highlights the moment of contact between voice-consciousnesses. Namely at that moment the idea is born and lives.

A. Kim's fantastic literature is a polyphonic world where cultural traditions of West (Russia) and East (Korea) meet together and intermingle with each other. His polyphonic world opened a new horizon for the spiritual dimensions of human life, employing the new cultural paradigm ‘WE-Everywhere-Forever’ instead of the previously widespread ‘I-Here-Now’. The literary imagination of the great artist A. Kim magically transformed the tragic history of Korean Diaspora in Russia into precious pieces of verbal art for continued dialogues between different cultures.



1.4. New Multi-society and Cultural Integration in Asia and Europe | Die neue multikulturelle Gesellschaften und die kulturelle Integration in Asien und Europa

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