Go to contents


Novelist Hwang Seok-young’s ‘shrewish wife’

Posted April. 11, 2014 04:29,   


When giving a lecture entitled “Literature and History” at the London Book Fair in the U.K. on Tuesday, novelist Hwang Seok-young made the following remarks. “I was always under historical pressure as if living with a wild wife, and felt the burden of writing novels on this.” It is not common for a writer to metaphorically compare his historical responsibility to a wild wife. Naturally, we wonder whether Hwang made such remarks because he had experience of living with a wild wife.

Hwang’s first wife is Hong Hui-dahm, the writer of the novel “Flag.” Considering that he got along well with her as if a comrade even after divorce, Hong is believed not to belong to a group of wild wives. Hwang is currently living with a TV scriptwriter, former assistant when he wrote the script of the TV drama “Jang Gil-san.” Due to this TV scriptwriter, who is 20 years younger than him, Hwang even filed a divorce suit against his second wife, formerly a choreographer in the U.S. Whoever his "wild wife" was, it made this reporter laugh to see him metaphorically comparing historical pressure to a wild wife, which may suggest the immense difficulty of living with a wild wife.

Xanthippe, the wife of Greek philosopher Socrates, is the most widely known malicious wife ever in history. Unlike other sophists, Socrates taught students without receiving honorarium. It is understandable that Xanthippe, who was 30 years younger than Socrates, to dump water at the philosopher, who failed to fulfill his duty to earn money. When someone asked Socrates about his wife, the great thinker replied, “If you want to be a good saddler, saddle the worst horse; for if you can tame one, you can tame all.”

A wild wife is translated into “shrewish wife” in English. It is more accurate to translate William Shakespeare’s play “Taming of the Shrew” into “training a bad-tempered woman” in Korean. Shakespeare describes the female character Catherine as being ‘even more bad-tempered than Xanthippe.’ Hwang’s shrewish wife could mean North Korea, the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. He cannot even get a divorce from the shrewish wife of the North, unlike a wife in his real life. It is also difficult to train her. This reporter also came to think that Hwang might have confessed his complex emotion as a writer living in a divided country.

Editorial writer Song Pyeong-in (pisong@donga.com)