Our Twisted Hero

Our Twisted Hero

Hardcover(1 ED)



When the twelve-year-old narrator of Our Twisted Hero moves to a small town and enrolls in the local school, he's confident that his big city sophistication will establish him as a natural leader. He is shocked to find his new classmates and teacher under the spell of the class monitor. As the narrator sets out to overthrow the bully, he is threatened, teased—and finally broken.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786866700
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 02/28/2001
Edition description: 1 ED
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Yi Munyol, one of Korea's most acclaimed writers, is the author of sixteen novels (many of which have sold into the millions), fifty-two novellas, and two collections of political and social commentary. His work has been translated into eight languages, and he has received numerous literary awards. He lives in South Korea.

Translator Kevin O'Rourke, an Irish priest (Columban Fathers), is a Professor of English at Kyunghee University in Seoul.

Read an Excerpt

It's been nearly thirty years already, but whenever I look back on that lonely, difficult fight, which continued from the spring of that year through the fall, I become as desolate and gloomy as I was at the time. Somehow in our lives we seem to get into fights like this all the time, and perhaps I get this feeling because to this day I've never really extricated myself from that one.

Around the middle of March that year, when the Liberal Party government was making its last stand, I left the prestigious Seoul elementary school I had proudly attended until then and transferred to a rather undistinguished school in a small town. My whole family had moved there after my father, a civil servant, had become embroiled in an internal departmental row. I was twelve; I had just gone into fifth grade.

When I arrived there that first day, escorted by my mother, I was enormously disappointed, for all sorts of reasons, by S Elementary School. I was used to looking at new school buildings arranged around an imposing three-story red-brick main building. To me, this old Japanese-style building, with its plastered exterior and its few ramshackle tar-painted board classrooms, seemed indescribably shabby. It drenched me in a kind of melodramatic disillusion a young prince lately deposed might feel. The mere fact that I came from a school where each grade had sixteen classes made me look with disdain on this school where there were barely six classes in a grade. Also, having studied in classes of boys and girls mixed together, to find boys' classes and girls' classes strictly segregated seemed very backward.

But it was the faculty room that really hardened my first impression. The faculty room of the school I had attended, as befitted one of the top schools in Seoul, was big and sparkling, and the teachers were all uniformly well-groomed and full of life. Here, the faculty room was barely the size of a classroom and the teachers in it sat lifelessly, shabby country folk blowing out smoke like chimneys.

As soon as my mother brought me into the room, the teacher in charge came over to greet us. He too fell far short of my expectations. If we couldn't have a beautiful and kind female teacher, I thought at least we might have a soft-spoken, considerate, stylish male one. But the white rice-wine stain on the sleeve of his jacket told me he didn't measure up. His hair was tousled; he had not combed it much less put oil on it. It was very doubtful if he had washed his face that morning, and his physical attitude left grave doubts about whether he was actually listening to Mother. Frankly, it was indescribably disappointing that such a man was to be my new teacher. Perhaps already I had a premonition of the evil that was to unfold over the course of the next year.

That evil showed itself days later when I was being introduced to the class.

"This is the new transfer student, Han Pyongt'ae. I hope you get on well."

The teacher, having concluded this one line introduction, seated me in an empty chair in the back and went directly into classwork. When I thought of how considerate my Seoul teachers had been in invariably giving prolonged proud introductions to new students, almost to the point of embarrassment, I could not hold back my disappointment. He didn't have to give me a big buildup, but he could at least have told the other children about some of the things I had to my credit. It would have helped me begin to relate to the others and them to me.

There were a couple of things the teacher could have mentioned. First of all, there was my school work. I may not have been first very often, but I was in the first five in my class in an outstanding Seoul school. I was quietly proud of this; it had played no small part in ensuring good results in my relations not only with teachers but also with the other children. I was also very good at painting. I was not good enough to sweep a national children's art contest, but I did get the top award in a number of contests at the Seoul level. I presume my mother stressed my marks and artistic ability several times, but the teacher ignored them completely. In some circumstances, my father's job, too, could have been a help. So what if he had suffered a setback in Seoul, even a bad one, bad enough to drive him from Seoul to here? He still ranked with the top few civil servants in this small town.

Disappointingly, the boys were just like the teacher. In Seoul when a new transfer student arrived, the other children took advantage of the first break in class to surround him and ask all sorts of questions: Are you good at school? Are you strong? Are you well off? They asked questions like these to gather the basic materials for establishing a relationship later on. But my new classmates, like my new teacher, had little interest in this. At the break they stood at a distance stealing quick glances across. And when finally at lunchtime a few boys did gather around, it was only to ask whether I had been on a tram, had seen South Gate, and other questions of this sort. In fact, the only things they seemed envious of, or impressed by, were my school supplies. These were of high quality and I was the only one who had them.

But to this day, nearly thirty years later, what makes the memory of that first day so vivid in my mind was my meeting with Om Sokdae.

Copyright © 2001 Yi Munyol
Copyright © 1987 by Kevin O'Rourke

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Our Twisted Hero 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Disco_grinch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story is about a young boy who used to live in Seoul. He did well in school and was accustom to the "rules" of school life in the big city. When his father has to transfer to a new location for work the boy also has to transfer to a new school out in the country. He expects to find that everything is "as it should be", the same as it was in Seoul...but he is mistaken. The rest of the story shows how he adjusts, or doesn't adjust and what steps he takes to achieve "justice" and restore everything to the "way it should be".Interesting look into the Korean "school culture" of the past, but also has something everyone can relate to no matter what race you are or what country you are from.Good authors tell a story, great ones make you feel the story...Yi Munyol is a great author!
Guest More than 1 year ago
An interesting book but a limp translation. The translator did not seem to have much of an ear for English prose and the awkward phrasing kept distracting from the story.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Three decades have passed since Han Pyongt¿ae moved from Seoul to the small Korean town due to his father¿s transfer after a dispute. Han knew that he expected to own the school after reaching fifth grade in the obviously much more sophisticated Seoul school.

However, instead of being the obvious leader in this small pond, Han soon realizes he has a rival in the older class monitor Om Sokdae. Han loses the indirect war and bows to Om¿s rules. He even begins to admire his opponent¿s abilities to successfully cheat and always win yet Han finds himself morose and unhappy in defeat.

OUR TWISTED HERO is a captivating allegory that will remind readers of tales like THE LORD OF THE FLIES or Holden Caulfield in Korea. The story line works because Yi Munyol never preaches, but instead allows the simplistic rivalry to unfold into a much deeper meaning and parallels events in his homeland. Han and Om engage the audience who surprisingly roots for both boys to somehow come up with a win-win deal. If this is any sample of the author¿s talent, readers will know that Mr. Munyol is a superstar that deserves his other novels to quickly be translated from Korean into other languages.

Harriet Klausner