Bae Suah – Ordinary

“In a word, she is ordinary. Ordinary not in the sense of average, but in the sense of a nonspecific majority among which it would be meaningless to attempt to make a distinction. One cannot conclude that she is not beautiful: ordinary beauty, that degree of beauty possessed by most young women, is also possessed by her, but she is beautiful not because she is a young woman but because she is ordinary. Possibly because hers is an impersonal ordinariness that no one could hate, too strong to be lorded over by a queen yet not strong enough to be pursued outside of a crowd. If her ordinariness were to have a character, that character would be darkness.” p.23

—Bae Suah, Milena, Milena, Ecstatic (trans. Deborah Smith)

There is a quality to Bae Suah’s flat affectless prose that I find compelling. I remember the same feeling when I read Nowhere to be Found. This is another story of hollow people and oscillating passages that build up to very little. I must read more of her work.

2 thoughts on “Bae Suah – Ordinary

  1. I was underwhelmed by Nowhere to be Found, but I’ve been curious about A Greater Music, in particular. (There’s a Woolf connection there, right?) Doubtless, my ignorance of Korean literature didn’t help.


    • In a way I’m more interested in what she is doing than what she is writing about. I’ll reread Nowhere to Be Found, but I recall being drawn in. I like this short prose piece.


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