A Study on Yi Gwang-su’s Autobiographical Novel of the Period of Liberation

Seon-ae Heo, Seoul National University
 

The writers during the period of liberation (1945-1948) put forth “sincerity” of practical self-criticism as an attitude of literary man facing a new era. Distinct from them, however, Yi Gwang-su takes a form of self-confession. He, who has kept a silence for nearly three years, comes out with a self-confessional sequence novel, I. The atmosphere of the contemporary group of writers does not tolerate his autobiographical novel, tinged with fictiveness. The sequence novel, thus, unavoidably stops developing at the 20s of the main character and Yi republishes an autobiography, My Confession, including the confession from childhood to the now.

This paper tries to investigate the narrative strategy of two works: one is an autobiographical novel and the other an autobiography, I and My Confession. The biggest difference of I from Yi’s autobiographical documentaries before the liberation is the point that it raises tragedy, juxtaposing his birth with the air of a national peril. According to the attitude of indecision caused by his tragic childhood, ‘I’ only takes a passive attitude to his first love and to national reality. The death of his parents and the deficiency brought about by the failure of the first love makes him commit ‘forgoing’ of his double-faced act and the rape of an older sister of his friend.

This forgoing means his pro-Japanese attitude, the cause of which lays bare the deficiency of national reality. In My Confession, he associates national movement with his birth, and explains his childhood in context with ethnicity and anti-Japanese. But, identical to the sequence novel, it consists of deficiency in order to account for his pro-Japanese attitude. The death of Ahn Chang-ho becomes suggestive of the deficiency. That is to say, both of them, his autobiographical novel and autobiography, assert emphatically that his mistakes to the homeland is aroused by the lack of the character who has mediated his desires, after which, by accentuating the feeling of lethargy, he emphasizes his necessity of his acts.