Novelist Reawakens the Wild for Youngsters
Successful Internet Novel Gets Published
By Chung Ah-young
Renowned novelist Park Bum-shin sticks to writing in a classic and traditional way ― he still uses a stack of papers and a pen instead of a computer or a typewriter.
Ironically, Park returns to his fans with his new novel, which was serially released on an Internet portal site for five months last year.
It was a bold attempt to put thought-provoking and heavily-themed literature on the Internet portal site.
Amid the crisis of publishing in a post-industrial society, Park is the first Korean veteran novelist to post his novel on the Internet before publishing it.
``Cholatse,'' (Park Bum-shin; Prunsoop Publishing; 364pp., 9,800 won) his latest novel, which had been posted on Naver (the nation's top portal) from Aug.9 last year to Jan. 7 this year, has just been published in hard copy.
Park said that he wasted 10,000 sheets of papers to finish the story. ``I am a person who is more familiar with old fashion, rather than with digital gadgets. So I wrote the story on paper and somebody worked them into computer word files,'' he said.
``I decided to release my story on the Internet because I just wanted many youngsters to read it. Online portals are a playground for all walks of life, especially youngsters,'' Park told reporters at the Press Center in central Seoul Tuesday.
The 62-year-old author said that his latest novel targets youngsters who seek the materialistic comfort of things without any important goals or dreams.
Because Cholatse is a mountain in the Khumbu region of the Nepalese Himalayas, the novel is first seen as a climbing novel. But it deals with ― in a simple plot but diverse narrations ― the struggles of youngsters who are driven to extreme situations, Park said.
The mountain is a gorgeous 6,440-meter peak in Nepal. The north and east faces of Cholatse can be seen from Dughla on the trail to the Mt. Everest base camp.
The author, who has been to the Himalayas about 10 times but has never ice climbed, said the story borrows the motif from the real story of climbers Park Jung-hun and Choi Gang-sik, who survived an accident ascending Cholatse.
The story begins with the narrator's first awesome impression of the mountain when he hears the metallic sound of a pickel (ice ax) on the ice ridges, and then questions why climbers ascend the mountains, risking their lives.
Park Sang-min and Ha Young-gyo, brothers by different fathers, are the main characters who climb the north face of Cholatse together. With just a few ways to ascend it, Cholatse is connected to Taboche (6,495m) by a long ridge.
They take a difficult, never-trodden route. Park and Ha, who suffer private haunting traumas, originally plan a one-day and two-night schedule for the ascent. But they have an accident and stay on the ice ridges for seven days without sufficient food or equipment. It's an alpine style, which means climbing in a self-sufficient manner, thereby carrying all of one's food, shelter, equipment, refusing fixed ropes and lacking high altitude porters and supplemental oxygen.
The only means of survival for Park and Ha are the ropes that tie them together.
In the accident in which Ha falls into a crevasse and breaks his ankle, the two brothers' conflicts surface when the rope connecting the two brothers is cut because it is worn out by the frequent contact with the ice ridge.
But Park and Ha reaffirm their strong ties by overcoming the ``crisis against all odds.'' The story happens on the ridges of the mountain, but the author emphasizes a strong adherence and patience to their purpose through diverse narrations ― from the perspectives of Park, Ha and Chung, Park's former teacher, who stays in the base camp to help them in case of an emergency.
Every sentence delivers the vivid tension between two brothers and implies the harsh reality of their lives, overlapping with the obstacles they must overcome on the icy ridges to survive. They escape from reality and find their identity through the daunting task of reaching the top of Cholatse.
The book portrays who they are, where they come from and the strong fatality, which pushes them to the unexplored route and gives readers the feeling they have climbed the mountain.
The author said that Cholatse is a symbolic space, which implies one's lofty goals or identity.
``For me, Cholatse might mean writing a novel. Writing a novel is like ascending Cholatse, on which many dangers, such as hidden crevasses lurk under the ridges that can lead to death with one mistaken step,'' the author said.
This novel is dedicated to the young generation, who grew up in better circumstances but are "solitary and empty" and without identity, he said. He wants to bring out the matter of identity to youngsters like his sons and daughter, he said.
``Civilization is the state of depriving `wild nature' from humans. I want to arouse `wild nature' in modern youngsters, to bring about something important for them,'' he said.
Park said that it was a great pleasure for him to meet his fans through the Web portal because he could see responses to his serial novel. ``The Internet-based serial novel was like a concert for writers who lack the chance to learn readers' responses. Sometimes I really wanted to know how readers think about my work,'' he said.
Asked about such responses affecting the plot or narrative of his compositions, he dismissed any possibility of changing his ideas due to readers.
He added that he expected Internet users to have a fierce debate about the characters of his novel in cyberspace but they didn't reach the level of the sound discussion of literature.
Park, who gained enormous popularity for serially publishing his stories in newspapers in the 1970-80s, was pleased with the Internet-based release of his work. His novel saw one million on-line visitors over five months.
Following Park's novel's successful transition from the Internet to print, influential writer Hwang Suk-young has followed suit and written a serial story on Naver.