Author: Young-hee Chang, Il Jeong (Illustration)
236 pages | 210*150mm
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|>>>This book is written in Korean.|
About This Book
The late columnist and professor Chang Young-hee once cited Emily Dickinson's poem, "Hope is the Thing with Feathers," saying that we don't recognize such hope ordinarily but it automatically springs up whenever we confront obstacles.
She stood up by herself all the time whenever she fell down by either physical handicap or illness.
Literature and, of course, her optimistic spirit, were a source of energy to overcome the hardships in her life. And now so does her posthumous work, "Miracle I Lived, Miracle I Will Live" for readers. The book was published a day before she died of cancer on May 9.
As a renowned professor in the English language and literature department at Sogang University and a human being defying her physical handicap and cancer, Chang gave hope and delight through her talented writing and words of wisdom which have graced the pages of mainstream publications. She was a columnist at The Korea Times for 13 years, starting from 1987 after she returned from studying in the United States.
The book is a collection of 39 essays she selected herself in hospital, which were published in the Monthly Samtoh from October 2000 to June 2008. It includes her experiences during her sabbatical year in Boston in 2001, her struggle with cancer, her return to work before a relapse and her last words just before she passed away last week.
"Now I think what I want is, no more, no less, a miracle. The probability of dying from cancer is much higher than it doesn't and running counter to this probability is a miracle. ¡¦ I want to share the miracle of life with my readers. Every day we live is a miracle and I know well that is the true miracle in my life right now," she wrote in the prologue.
Her stories are beloved by many readers due to the mixture of personal emotion, sorrow and pain from the point of view of an ordinary person, completely free from political and economic implications.
There's no doubt Chang, as the first daughter of the late Dr. Chang Wang-rok, a renowned English literature scholar, inherited the family talent.
When she was around one year old, polio left her unable to use her legs.
Despite her physical handicap, she became a prominent English professor and taught English literature at university, writing several books which inspired many readers with her cheerful and humorous tones reflecting her optimistic point of view on life.
But in 2001, Chang was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she recovered and returned to school. However, the cancer spread to her vertebrate in 2004.
Although suffering her illness, she once again returned to her students a year later, but eventually had to stop teaching as the cancer had spread to her liver.
In the book, she revealed her state of mind when she first knew of her illness. "Looking back, I was mad at the fact that I was chosen as the target of misfortune by God. It was unfair that I have to fight a battle that I can never win only with my own free will and efforts. I hated others who might feel a sense of superiority only because they are healthier than me. Most of all, my self-respect was deeply hurt as I have to be a target of sympathy again," she said.
But Chang found her signature optimism on life, saying "But Chang Young-hee who gets more humbled from my illness and learns a little more love and becomes a better person might successfully end this cancer treatment and will be back to a normal life."
She also writes about an interview with a magazine. After being interviewed, she found the article's headline ¡ª "Overcoming Physically Handicapped Life Like Divine Punishment" ¡ª unpleasant.
She said she had never thought of her life was a "divine punishment" before. "Many people think living with a physically handicap might look miserable but it isn't. I don't feel inconvenienced because I am so accustomed to living with my pair of crutches. I realize I am handicapped only when somebody else calls me a `handicapped' professor," she said.
And then she listed the reasons why her life is "blessed" rather than "punished" because of her family, profession, heart-warming mind and her fans she loved so much.
So her essay is full of her joyful confessions tinged with wit and humor on her daily life's happenings even when portraying her struggle with illness. She easily lost her way behind the wheel and was always late for most of her appointments due to her "lazy nature." Sometimes a street vendor fooled her, and she enjoyed loafing at home. All these everyday trifles made her feel alive and thankful for the ordinariness.
She believed her long fight against illness was due to the power of a miracle and was part of the process of becoming a "better" person.
Chang was once asked by her student about whether it was worth keeping up hope against a foregone conclusion such as the case of a blind girl, who is stranded on an island where water is rising, but is singing a song without knowing that she might die drowning.
She said that regardless of whether we are singing a song of hope or not, the water will reach her anyway. If so, it's better to sing a song. Hope is powerful enough to overturn fate as the power of hope extends the length of life.
"It was the words for me rather than the student. I still believe the great power of hope and so I shout hope loudly, waiting for a new spring," she said in her epilogue.
Chang published several books of essays, including "Walking Through the Forest of Literature," "Birthday" and "Blessing."
--The Korea Times (www.koreatimes.co.kr)
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