Read “I decided to destroy myself”-if you want to understand young people

Jul 28, 2016

We talked with philosopher, translator, author, political scientist, project leader Molor-Erdene.S about the recently translated “I decided to destroy myself”, Korean novel, which tells about learning the world while living during globalism, evaluating our society, what can we feel through art, movie and music, emotion.

About the book:

South Korean writer Kim Young-ha writes in postmodern style and won Korean prestige prize “Munghak Donge” by this novel. His novel was translated in English, French, German, Czech, Holland, Poland, Turkish, Chinese, Vietanemese and this time in Mongolia.


-Why did you choose to translate this book?

-Generally, when Mongolians introduce themselves to Koreans, we deliver ourselves as nomadian culture and not a modern people. We are known as we cannot learn from world knowledge, education and unable to work and talk in the level of Korean people. Thousands of young Mongolians who cannot work in their homecountry are doing manual labour in South Korea and have conflict with their society; therefore we don’t have good reputation there. Now it is time to change this reputation.

It is not only Mongolians surviving in Korea, it is also Koreans have already known in Mongolia and their lifestyle became normal to us. A horseman in countryside talks about Korean movies more than talking about Mongolian tradition. Also, we eat in Korean restuarant, buy clothes imported from Korea, drive Korean porter in countryside and drink coffee in Korean chains. It is almost as if we are living in Korea.

But what makes Korean youth different than Mongolian youth? Today we eat what they eat, watch their movies, listen to their songs.

From socialism until today, we translated world literature, but they were incomplete translations. The reason is that we didn’t understand novel is philosophy of life. Through this book, people will understand what a novel is. Obviously it is a Korean novel, but I want to say that this novel will introduce you the world, what to perceive through art, movie and music, how to communicate with foreigners, what they think etc. Also, you can see life and emotion of young Koreans.

We call ourselves different from outsiders, but in fact we are the same people. The only difference between the Korean and Mongolian guy is the name or passport. But they have the same clothes, the same haircut and the same cell phone.

-We don’t read novels that much.

For me, it isn’t about translating a novel; rather I wanted to introduce young people beauty of book and novel. Novel is the same as science work. Therefore, reader must study and discuss about it just like scientists, so that we understand what they want to say. It isn’t enough to read a book just because you know the alphabet. You need to really understand it. But, it is to have same understanding by discussing with each other. I wish Mongolians learn to wirte a novel, which is why I translated this book. In history, there was never a Mongolian who wrote about conflicts, good and bad, general state of that time.

Haruki Murakami writes philosophical book. Ayurzana writes about his personal opinion. Who needs someone’s personal opinion? People need philosophy of life.

-How did you find this book when you first read it?

-I have read it in German language. I immediately thought, “What a beautiful book. I need to translate it”. But I chose this book not through emotions, rather through many years of experience. Personally, I’m a globalized person who lived, worked, traveled abroad many years.

-What is the idea behind characters in the novel?

-Generally, the book is about today’s young people, how they find themselves and how they live. A character is a character. Behind it, there is Korean society. But, you will see yourself from the characters. Book is about today’s society. Even in Ulaanbaatar, people same as the characters are walking. It is a life happens and passes in front of our eyes in Mongolia. Of course, since we have no culture of novel, it might seem weird to us.

-What is your thought on reading and translating a book?

-Life is boring without books. Man has work to eat, drink, play and sleep. I feel freedom when I read book. Gorky said, “Book is a window to view the world.” Yet this world is the world of humans. Human world is conflict of love, feeling, conflicts of consciousness and unconsciousness. You know a lot from books. For translation, if you don’t know philosophy, it is not easy task to translate novel and philosophical book.

Today, we misunderstand and devalue books. Calling someone who read a lot of book as “weirdo” is something what the blind, deaf and numb black mass thinks. Mongolia is filled with black mass, though it is a good thing that we are living as we want between two big countries. A book publishing process must go under professional inspection. It is possible that you can publish whatever crazy thing you wrote. This is a huge problem. For example, we go under professional inspection, when we build a house. If injured, we go to hospital. Yet because of not inspecting books, people can get brain trauma due to reading wrong book. It is not certain who will treat it, thus it is same as a crime. We can not just fix the brain. Therefore I’m investing in people to open their eyes and ear.

-Through this book?

-I published my 17th book. I’m searching for reliable young people who can become intellectual among today’s youth. I cannot find it. If intellectuals increase and middle class arise, black mass will be cleared.

-How was the book opening? Did comments come from readers?

-Book opening was wonderful. Koreans probably never imagine Mongolians are intellectual.

  • One girl who read the book said “Before I used to finish books by reading a little by little or throw it away without reading it. But this book makes me happy and laugh. I’m happy that it was translated in Mongolian, I was imagining a lot”.
  • Another reader said “Now I want to go back to Korea. Before, I used to be hurtful, angry and depressed when I was there. Now, I want to go to Korea, see things different, have different attitude and talk with people.”

- What did you consider more when you were translating the book?

-Because the author wrote this book for 21st century, I had no choice but to translate it “cool”. Mongolian writers are the same in yesterday and today. They have been writing their superstition or personal opinion without any review about society, which is nothing to do with life. This novel is making revolution for the first time in Mongolia. It is a different thing to translate into Mongolian language and you are able imagine what is happening in the novel.

-Who can read this novel?

-Parents, girls and boys can read to know how young people in 21st century are today. We must not get angry by pressuring our daughters or criticizing our sons for being introvert. They have something different in their head. The games they play are different. Thus rather than young people, parents need to read it. Or you can say “To understand me, read this book”. I can say the same thing, too.

-There was a scene, in which a young woman choses how to die. It was horrible.

-It is her choice. She chooses from options without fear and getting nervous. It is same as comparing price. For Mimi, things are different. The book is filled with philosophy of young people. The reason why Mongolians couldn’t learn about novels is because translators and writers do not have philosophy education. Therefore they cannot translate it in professional level. Renchin.B had no education in philosophy. Writers at that time used to call what they understood in their own way as translation. There are many examples of turning foreign literature into domestic one. Today’s translated books do not even deserve any word.

-I heard there will be a book club for people who have read this book?

-Soon we are going to have a book club which never existed before in Mongolia and which makes it possible for readers to meet and discuss. You must not understand and evaluate a book in your own way after you read it. We must work on each part such as the book itself, social image, playing poker etc.

- Last but not least?

All of us cannot be a black mass. Intellectuals of new generation must form. Please open your eyes and ear. We need to be able to judge books. This book will make you see and hear.



© Molor-Erdene 2022