The Curious Tale of Mandogi's Ghost

The Curious Tale of Mandogi's Ghost

KIM SŎK-PŎM
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE, AND WITH AN INTRODCUTION BY CINDI L. TEXTOR
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 144
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/kim-15310
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  • Book Info
    The Curious Tale of Mandogi's Ghost
    Book Description:

    The Curious Tale of Mandogi's Ghost incorporates Korean folk tales, ghost stories, and myth into a phenomenal depiction of epic tragedy. Written by a zainichi, a permanent resident of Japan who is not of Japanese ancestry, the novel tells the story of Mandogi, a young priest living on the island of Cheju-do. Mandogi becomes unwittingly involved in the Four-Three Incident of 1948, in which the South Korean government brutally suppressed an armed peasant uprising and purged Cheju-do of communist sympathizers. Although Mandogi is sentenced to death for his part in the riot, he survives (in a sense) to take revenge on his enemies and fully commit himself to the resistance.

    Mandogi's indeterminate, shapeshifting character is emblematic of Japanese colonialism's outsized impact on both ruler and ruled. A central work of postwar Japanese fiction, The Curious Tale of Mandogi's Ghost relates the trauma of a long-forgotten history and its indelible imprint on Japanese and Korean memory.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52672-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Note on Romanization
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Translator’s Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxii)

    In an afterword to the 1991 reprinted edition of Mandogi yūrei kitan (translated here as The Curious Tale of Mandogi’s Ghost and originally published in 1970), Kim Sŏk-pŏm writes that “Mandogi went against the current of the Japanese literary establishment from the beginning. The same is true of myself, the writer.”¹ He might have stopped at “went against the current.” Whereas it is true that the novel does not fit neatly into the Japanese literary establishment, neither does it fit neatly into any other category. What strikes me most about Mandogi is its rich and multifaceted nature, each reading revealing...

  6. Chapter I
    (pp. 1-10)

    At Kannon Temple,¹ in the heart of a deep valley, there was a young priest who worked in the kitchen, a temple hand, in other words. People called him “dimwit.” When they didn’t call him that, they called him “Mandogi.” And when they didn’t call him that, they called him plain old “temple hand.” Of them all, “Mandogi” was the least insulting, but that was the Buddhist name given to him when he entered the priesthood. If you have a priest’s name, you should still have the secular name you had before you became a priest, but he didn’t have...

  7. Chapter II
    (pp. 11-20)

    For Mandogi, who knew nothing of what the world calls one’s “hometown,” the heart of the deep valley on Mount Halla was truly home. It wasn’t just where he lived, where he grew up, and where he learned to read and write from the benevolent old priest. The place was adorned with the flapping wings and cheerful songs of countless little birds, woodpeckers, chickadees and cuckoos, owls and pheasants. If you managed to climb up the steep, zigzagging trail on the side of the mountain, a wide, flat trail would suddenly open up before you, and if you went straight...

  8. Chapter III
    (pp. 21-35)

    S Hill was set in the rising area between the mountains in the center of the island and the plains in the coastal areas. If you went down to the base of S Hill, you could see the village of Shimomura. From there, the ocean is still far away. The sun had not quite risen as Mandogi walked the rough, rocky mountain path from S Hill down to the valley. He had just finished his shift at the sentry post and was on his way home, an iron spear made in the shape of a gun hanging clumsily from his...

  9. Chapter IV
    (pp. 36-46)

    Mandogi was standing in the open doorway of the priest’s room, staring blankly. After following Mother Seoul into the room when she returned from her tirade about the captain, he had forgotten to close the door. Her moments of anger were so sudden, you could say they rode in on the gales as Hong Gildong did. (Originally a Korean folktale character, Hong Gildong was the hero of Hŏ Kyun’s seventeenth-century novel, The Tale of Hong Gildong. Highly skilled at disguising himself and escaping, he appeared unexpectedly all over Korea, helping the masses to resist feudalistic oppression.) When she returned, Mandogi...

  10. Chapter V
    (pp. 47-57)

    Mandogi put on his priest’s robe, his mind on the one louse he had returned to his old home, as if he were some kind of Sanzang.¹ In other words, he set out with the louse as his sidekick. Mother Seoul happened to be in a good mood too. When, looking down at the floor, he timidly told her about Old Man O’s daughter-in-law in Shimomura, she was unexpectedly pleasant and agreed to let him go, even if she sternly reminded him to collect all of the offerings at the service.

    Mandogi went back into the kitchen and closed the...

  11. Chapter VI
    (pp. 58-69)

    The two jeeps drove swiftly down the bumpy country road, churning up dust as they went. Sudden gusts of wind stirred up the dust, which fell noisily onto the rear jeep where Mandogi was riding, pulling a hazy curtain down over his field of vision. This is just like a runaway horse, thought Mandogi, who had never ridden in a jeep before. But then the sight of Mother Seoul’s frightening face appeared in his head. How on earth could he explain these unfathomable events so that she would understand? What would he do if he were late for cooking the...

  12. Chapter VII
    (pp. 70-78)

    Time stopped in the room, and everything stood still.

    Only the blood moved, flowing and spreading. As Mandogi watched the blood spreading around the room he fell into a strange feeling of seasickness. The blood had soaked the floor and was creeping up the four walls, bending at the top as if to flow out onto the ceiling. When he closed his eyes, he was surrounded by the blue surface of the sea, swaying as if cut off from the room and placed on a boat. If he went down to the bottom of the deep blue sea beneath the...

  13. Chapter VIII
    (pp. 79-95)

    The rumor that the ghost of Mandogi had appeared at the temple started around the same time as the rumor that Mrs. Yun, as she was on her way back from Sŏngnae, had met the ghost of the girl who had killed herself. Because the two rumors collided, they became one and spread wider and wider.

    They say there have always been “spirits” or ghosts on this island. They can be any size, from about the size of a human, down to the “sparrow spirits” that are about as big as a child, and all the way up to the...

  14. Chapter IX
    (pp. 96-109)

    After hurrying back to the temple, Mother Seoul called the captain of the dispatch station to a private room right away. She also included the captain with the flashy mustache from the police station, who had given her a ride in the jeep, and she asked the two of them about the details of the appearance of Mandogi’s ghost the night before.

    Because he had greeted the captain with “Good evening,” she assumed that Mandogi was still a dimwit, even as a ghost, and under the circumstances, there was nothing to do but to cast him down into hell. This...

  15. Chapter X
    (pp. 110-114)

    As many as ten days had passed, and it was a day in March 1949. An American LST transport ship had docked in Sŏngnae and was spewing out reinforcements for the government’s March operation to exterminate the communists on Cheju-do.¹ The police had checked the execution log for the day Mandogi should have been executed, and now they were going out to do an on-site investigation.

    The authorities had been racking their brains over the problem of the fire at S Hill Temple. But if they didn’t take care of this quickly, they would be taking men away from the...

  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 115-116)