The story of the eighteenth and nineteenth century Russian intelligentsia, of the nobleman returning to his motherland after years of European education, only to discover a feudal country to which Western ideas cannot be applied is too familiar to readers of Russian literature. This odd paradox—an educated aristocrat who one hand studies French enlightenment texts but on the other hand owns serfs and lives a medieval feudal life—is perhaps the central motif for what gradually becomes the agonizing preoccupation and national obsession of arguably every writer of this country: when can Russia create a new idea, a movement so thoroughly Russian and original at heart that would even influence Western art and literature? When will Russia look inward for ideas instead of trying to implement Western ideas in its culture?
I must admit to you Darling; I am everafraid;
That my age passes and that my Being has little’been made.
In the brightness and goldenshimmer of summer,
I thought I’d find my heart mimicking; finding; peaceful slumber.
It was a rainy August morning, and a light mist had descended on a large crowd gathering around Dorchester Gaol. The usual levity and callousness of the public by the gallows was replaced by another form of pleasure—not unlike the kind the Elizabethan groundlings experienced while watching Juliet, Ophelia, or Desdemona die on stage. The woman who provoked such sentiments was Elizabeth Martha Browne, a shopkeeper who murdered her husband with an axe a little less than a month before. Dressed in black, and looking much younger than her age, she resembled a portrait of a martyr. She was extraordinarily calm, and her composure in meeting her death invoked even more pity and compassion.
Marlene kept a watchful eye on her grandchildren, Sibby and Amy, prancing ahead on the worn path. Brush lined the trail. The occasional weed flaunted flowers, but most of the colours were dull as if the sun had failed to provide enough warmth to stimulate their hues.
With his sorrow scattered;
and his jigsaw broken;
The Egotistic Lunatic collects pieces off the ground…
His back breaks under expense
Which cannot be outweighed by peace,
Or (tragically) repentance…
After its release over a decade ago in South Korea, the immediate success of Kyung-Sook Shin’s Please Look After Mom sets high expectations for contemporary readers. The novel precedes its reputation as it evokes universal feelings of nostalgia and guilt through its relatable premise: dealing with the grief of the love you never get to share. Please Look After Mom sold over a million copies within 10 months of its release in South Korea, and continued to achieve critical success after its translation to English in 2011.