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The artistic world of Michael Park’s prose

Professor Mirkurbanov N.M.

 TSPU named after Nizami


One of the central categories of modern literary criticism is – the artistic world. Close attention is paid to this issue in the writings of prominent scholars and literary critics.

For example, in the works of Likhachev D.S., Fedorov F.P., Gasparov M.L. and others; very thoroughly and with a large practical material base, the concept and few definitions of “artistic world” are approved. Let us highlight some, in our opinion, which are the most solid and give concretized understanding of the term.

“The world of art, – says the academician D.S. Lihachev – reflects the reality both: indirectly and directly: indirectly – through the artist’s vision, through his art show, and directly, specifically in cases where the artist unconsciously, without giving it artistic importance, shifts in the world he created: real phenomena or ideas and concepts of his time.”

1F. P. Fedorov points out that “the artistic world – is a system of universal spiritual relationships embedded into the text, which has aesthetic value” and “does not reflect the objective world as a whole, but only a local “favorite” part of it – ”shortened” world”.2The well-known literary critic M. L. Gasparov offers to call  list of objects and phenomena, which are mentioned in the product catalog of his images as the “artistic world”.3

By definition offered by L. P. Chudakov,  “the artistic world – is an original and unique vision of things and spiritual phenomena, captured in words.”4

According to researcher V. Savelieva, “the artistic world – is a fantasy-organized and structured idea of ​​artistic reality, combining the apparent lifelikeness picture of the world, the rational and irrational, probability, and its virtual versions, made by and imaginative mind of the author first, then the reader’s”.5

During the in-depth approach to the definition of “artistic world”, it becomes clear that it relates not only to literature but also philosophy, psychology and art. Being a free-reality made by the artist, “artistic world” is connected with the spiritual, individual concept of reality.

Thus, from the point of literary historians, the artistic world – is a unique and self-contained world, created by writer and embodied in his creative work, or in a separate creation.

That is the unique and self-sufficient world, which has absorbed multicolor palette of life situations, is created by Mikhail Park, member of the Union of Artists and Writers’ of Russia. Korean, born in Uzbekistan in a small village Akkurgan, located on the shore of river Syr-Darya, received his art education in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, many years, worked in the intellectual capital of Kazakhstan, Alma-Ata, and from late 90s living in Moscow, Mikhail Park in his numerous interviews and conversations constantly reminds the reader (in my opinion to himself, too) that is the product of two national elements: Korean and Russian. Bearing in mind not only the blood, but rather the spirit.

In confirmation to above said, I will present a quote from a review of Igor Mikhailov, which was published in regards to the release of writers new collection of short stories: “… an artist and a writer Michael Park, recalls the legendary hero Monnen of “Tales of Chhunhyan”, overcoming obstacles that separate lovers, he connects broken matter of cultural space.6

Among the Russian-speaking Koreans in CIS, there are not so many people who write; and only few professional writers do exist. The Artwork of the artist and writer Michael Park visibly differs with the works of his fellow writers by special intonation and quiet pathos, which are in tune with inner feelings of those touched by his stories and novels, who saw something close to a bright palette of his paintings, immersed in a diverse, multifaceted and multilayer midst of the artistic world of writer’s prose.

Mikhail Park published five novels, six short stories, more than 20 stories, two plays. The writer’s works brought attention not only to reading public, but also to high jury of various international and Russian awards. Over the years, for his novel, Michael Park was awarded the prize (named after Valentin Kataev) twice, and for the stories – the prestigious awards of the American magazine and Seoul state Radio and Television company. The writer’s works were translated and published in South Korea, some stories and poems have been translated and published in Germany and Canada.

“Writing – is a single work piece, – says Mikhail Park, in one of his interviews. – But the fruit of his craft directly addresses the human heart. From this point of view, his act – is the mission. Highest commitment, which writer gives to himself – is to march till the end of the chosen path, no matter what, without complaining, and be honest to yourself”.7

Often, Pak’s narratives miss metaphorical and complex comparisons. His speech does not sprinkle with inverse structures and sophisticated tirade of incoherent stream of consciousness, which is so beloved in literary environment today. In contrast, clarity, accuracy of expressions, during the imaginative re-creation of art actually gives reader the impression of the text serving as the documentary of life. Mystification of present’s authenticity: “this could happen” giving way to strong conviction, “it actually happened.” But this fact does not make any of Michael Park’s stories compromise his artistic expression, but rather, gain certain modest elegance.

“But who would have explained why people suddenly ever look at the starry sky and listen to the noise of leaves? Why do stars twinkle and the singing of the wind, awakens the forgotten soul strings in him?”8 This is how the story could start “One day in December”; Michael Park begins it slightly different, but still the leitmotif of the narrative are these questions.

It is almost a Christmas story. In the doors of the New Year, a successful businessman from capital city goes back to the places of his bygone youth, with one desire – to meet with his first love. Vika, a classmate he could not open up to, at that time. This recalls the prophetic lines by Andrei Voznesensky:

“Do not go back to former lovers,

They don’t exist in our world. “

It is clear, that Vicka is already gone; there is a loving mother and somebody’s wife, not the girl from the nostalgic illusion, calling the child of Don Cossacks and Far Eastern Koreans Blood Prince, as he calls himself, Nikolay on his journey. On the way back, after never held rendez-vous, in a roadside cafe at the very New Year, the hero of the story has a miracle. It was in the form of a modern (relaxed) cheeky, but very pretty girl named Ira. Spark of the mutual sympathy has slipped in between young people. However, the gift of fortune is not always so obvious to figure it out soon. Only on the way to Moscow, while listening to Joe Dassin’s singing in an unknown language in low baritone on the receiver, Nikolay suddenly understood the song, the feelings expressed by the singer became clear… ”Nikolay pressed the brakes … He turned the SUV around and drove back …».

Lessons from the past and the magic power of art are sometimes useful for settle down, but not very strong men. I think that it is the intonation, which ends Park’s story.

In his novels-miniatures, writer strive to materialize the spiritual concepts, saving the value of which has never been questioned. This is not preaching, but rather an attempt to refresh the truth in memory of a man – how difficult and yet necessary it is to be a human. This thought is convincingly applied in “Sunflower”, which was awarded with the literary prize “Koreanfondeshen” and Korean Pen Club.

In my opinion, this is not the story in its traditional genre style. Written by light expressionist strokes, “Sunflower” is more like an unfinished sketch for a picture and carries a certain reticence, which provokes the reader to take part in “completion” and finalization of the tale about mutual love and affection of beauty Lily and Ivan, the veteran with disabilities of the war in Grozny. The tale concludes with the address of Ivan the puppeteer to the kids on the street, after the performance:

“Our hero will visit you in couple of days to talk about your new adventures! Maybe he will talk about spotted calf named Chevon, who lives in the Korean countryside Meari. And for now, Rem must gain some strength. Dear audience, he will appear in front of you on Saturday. Only, if it’s not going to rain”.

After the severe physical and mental wounds legless handicapped, Ivan found himself, he became the idol of kids, a good storyteller and magician of the puppet stage.

In the story, logic of spiritual elevation of the hero is displayed: he understood life, grasped its immeasurable value, and awareness of the value of life has triggered sense of beautiful in Ivan. He imbued with love for the world, with everything that is filled with life without distortion.

Sometimes organically, and somehow naturally, the writer goes beyond the reality. And then the world with all the attributes of “realness” suddenly becomes magical, full of amazing transformations, and what is happening in the story is not anyhow perceived by the reader as fiction.

For instance, in the book “Lion”, reader did not even realize that Park invites him to listen to a parable. Old and sick lion has found himself a place under a tree on the bank of the Moscow River Yauza. All would be good, but a pack of stray dogs, wish to claim this territory as well. Lion did not want, but the dog-leader made him use force. It would seem banal idea that even the old lion – is the lion. But there is always someone to whom this truth has to cram again.

The writer really wants justice – and happens something, which is almost impossible, but the reader gets highly appreciated happy ending. The dogs ran away and left beautiful lady ​​of the dog pack to the winner lion. There comes a triumph of justice. When in real life “justice” means an optional attribute of the coexistence of human beings on earth, at least we want to read about it, not to forget…

How important is the plot in work of art? It is hard to say. Usually, the most important impression we expect, is the literary text. Not the plot development, but its entertaining features. Let’s admit, all topics have been mastered by previous generations of writers, all the words have been spoken, only the chance, to repeat these words with a different intonation and in a different context, is left. And this new tone and a fresh context is what we are interested in. Please note that not subject, not words, not even the plot, but tone and context, not in reference to the literal use of these concepts but their wide and deep understanding.

It is known that the plot is one of the most important elements of the artistic world of literature. The basic premise of the story is the deployment time – historical period of action, and for a time flow in the work. Heroes of Michael Park’s story “Still Life with Apples,” at first glance, do not ask questions on the meaning of life on earth, man’s place in this circulation, called life, they just live and love. Love their job, loved ones, their memories of the past and hope for the future. Specificity of chronotope in the novel is connected to the task to disclose the main subject of ​​the work: presenting his hero in the present tense, the author projects his consciousness into the past and the future in various forms, acquiring leitmotiv symbolic meaning, the image of past appears as hero’s last expression of personal spiritual space.

In previously mentioned interview stated above, Michael Park admitted: “I feel comfortable as long as stay within the hose. Street – is the focus of discomfort. With my appearance (meaning the Korean look, not very common on the streets of Moscow -N.M.) I am highly distinguished form the masses. I am a stranger. I go back home and feel fine again, since I live in a dual reality.”9

And the author’s hero – photographer Dmitry Lee Marov, dwells in the human world as well as a writer, in his own way, not deliberately cutting off from him. Collision with the world ends, not usually in favor of the photographer: either his friend’s wife will be rude to him; station vagabond, fearing competition, stick with the threats, and taking by mistake a dummy in a shop window for a live person, Lee Marov gets into trouble and, finally, “four stocky two legged creatures,” we can add – bad people, robbed and brutally beaten Dmitry, who was on his way home.

But there is another world where he feels comfortable and cozy – the space of his memory. It was there, in pristine, not only the images of his beloved people preserved. From there, from past, first woman of his life, in connection to whom the most sincere and deep feeling and his main passion in life – black and white photography. However, black and white picture, rather than passion, is a shape of hero’s reality perception. Black and white print, according to Lee Marov, allows the viewer to invent and “find” hidden color tones in the photo, and – these are “…specific photos, targeting on deep brain activity…”.10

The apparent simplicity of the narrative in Michael Park’s stories hides, as a rule, fairly deep associative array. Sometimes a small bar or glimpsed episodic “passing” character can cause a whole range of associations to the reader. For example, in the story “Red Tulips”, quite an old man now and then goes to the train station to wait for the train, and, apparently, the only passenger train, which stops at this station. He hold a bunch of tulips in his hands. Arctic explorer, spent most of his life at the drifting stations, saw his daughter for the last time when she was five years … “Well, sometimes I go out to see the train, – somewhat guiltily he says to the boy, who accompanies the camels. – I feel like my daughter is about to come… And then I go to meet her. I would definitely recognize her…”. But the reader is convinced that even if a miracle happened, and daughter would suddenly arrive at the station, he still would not be able to remember her. Remember Joseph Brodsky:

“There’s nothing left to connect them back again,

Not features, nature or the fracture.

But in between there is a simple thread

That usually, is called a dwelling.”11

This common thread, known as dwelling or home, family, kinship, etc. in the story of Park is torn apart and probably “there’s nothing left to connect them back again …”. Of course, this raises questions on ubiquitous problem of “Fathers and Sons» and not in its original, classic version – the problem of generations, but in more mundane, everyday way – relationship between children and parents. We have to pay for every single thing in our lives, and the man pays the bills: negligence of his father’s duty as a young man, turns into oblivion and loneliness in his old age.

In this tiny miniature, like in a water drop, the entire multi-faceted, multi-layered and multi-polar world is being displayed. Tulips wrapped in yesterday’s paper, soaked in the rain and forgotten on the tracks, create the sense of hopeless depreciation of everything connected with the life of this man, lost in Russian halt. Although in reality, we know that the tulips, the beauty of which can soften a heart of stone, serve as a symbol of perfect love. And it is not a coincidence that the indifferently discarded flowers, were picked up by the boy. He loves his father, brother, loves and understands these kind and patient animals – camels; he loves Tasboget, his settlement, lost on boundless desert spaciousness.

Quite unexpectedly, authors’ hero saw a flock of camels, which were in some special wagons. The sight of these exotic animals on the territory of central Russia stunned the man, so that the very calm, measured narrative became more active, “Camels! Here’s what he saw. The whole flock of camels … ” And suddenly you catch yourself thinking that those camels could be the descendants of the famous novel Karanar by Chingiz Aitmatov “The day lasts longer than a century”, as the writer, by the lips of a boy somehow targets our imagination in the direction of the great desert spaces - Sary-Ozeki, pointing at Tasboget are, where a boy was born, and apparently there is town Terenozek somewhere close, almost a home of Burannyi Yedigei, maybe the tanned ancestor of this descendant of Kazakhs, who freely communicates with the camels, as well as the legendary hero of the novel. And then the reader has no choice but to recall the beginning of the great writers’ novel: “Trains in these place went from east to west and from west to east …”

The writer makes the reader to see the world of his characters in a complete picture, at the same time provoking the imagination of the recipients and pushing them to finalize the act on their own. Apparently, this style of narrative was described by the famous English writer Joseph Conrad, when he asserted that “the author writes only half of the book, the reader writes the other”.12

Thus, we conclude that the artistic world of Michael Park’s stories, as well as the objective world - is inexhaustible, and appears in front of the reader as a system of spiritual relations, created not only by the author but also by attentive and interested reader, as the authors stories have an amazing property – invite the reader to analyze texts of his creations. And this, as we know, is dialogue, participation.




1 Likhachev D. S. The inner world of art, magazine: ”Questions of Literature”, 1968, p.-77-78

2 Fedorov, F. P. Romantic art world: space and time, Riga 1988, p. 7 .-

3 Cit. By: Savelieva V.V. Literary text and the art world: the problems of the organization. Fund Soros. - Kazakhstan – Almaty: Dayu Press, 1996, p.46-47.

4 Ibidem, p.-37

5 Quoted from: Irina Nikolaevna Pasechnaya. The artistic world of the works by K. Graham: dissertation abstract of the Candidate of Philological Sciences: 10.01.03. - Moscow, 2005. Pg. – 11

6 Michael Park. Seoul Holidays: Stories of Korea. - M.: Svyatogor, 2011. (Igor Mikhailov, aside from the hiking trails.) http://exlibris.ng.ru/lit/2011-06-09/6_petit.html

7 “Russian Koreans,” September 2009, koreanpartners.ru

8 Michael Park. ”Once in December,” the website “Koryo Saram», http://kore-saram.ru/default.aspx. Hereinafter, unless otherwise stated, the works of Michael Pak with a quoted resource of the specified site.

9 “Russian Koreans,” September 2009, koreanpartners.ru

10 Creative association “Limelight.” The Invisible Island (prose and poetry of Korean writers), Almaty, “Zhibek Zholi”, p.-227

11 On the poetry of Joseph Brodsky (part 1): http://josephbrodsky.narod.ru/about_me.html

12 Address of the resource: http://www.aphorism.ru/author/a653.shtml