Books, Tales & Poems in When the Weather Is Fine — The Winter Chapter

by Marion KDL

Reading has mostly been a solitary endeavor in K-Dramaland. Yoon Ji-ho and Nam Se-hee read alone, for instance, Kang Dan-i and Seo-joon read alone (at least most of the time), Kim Jin-hyeok reads alone and so did Seo Yi-do in Perfume.

This is not so in When the Weather Is Fine; here, reading is a community experience. Some of the residents of the tiny village of Bukhyeon share stories, legends, poems and book passages and their thoughts on them in their Goodnight Bookstore Book Club. It is as if these characters defy with all their might what sociologist Robert Putnam decried in his 2000 book Bowling Alone, in which he discusses how people in the States are increasingly disconnected to family, friends and neighbors — they even bowl alone (hence the book’s title).

But the drama also seems to tell us that there is much more to defy Bowling Alone than meeting up with people and sharing a hobby with them. Bukhyeon’s residents have their own pace: they live in a rhythm in which digital and analogue seem to meet in the middle. They still have landlines and make use of them. But they do not renounce their smartphones, even if they are used rather seldomly. People are not “busy” at and because of their job. Instead, they only hurry and get busy when it comes to their hobby, their book reading club. They seem not to work for life and are not out for monetary profit. They rush customers along so as to be in time for their book club meeting. Also, Im Eun-seob (Seo Kang-joon) does not seem to mind not to have customers in his shop (and even put a book keeping system for them in place) as he gets by with his online shop.

It is no wonder, I think, that quite some viewers are put off by this rhythm that simply represents a different conception of life and what living together means. Isn’t being uncomfortable with When the Weather Is Fine just a sign of how much every thing (and every person) rushes by us nowadays and how much we are constantly, nervously in a rush? Without taking the time: To make a coffee. To sit down with a book. To make time to meet friends. To help people in need.

A big thanks to this drama for making us uncomfortable.

This first entry on When the Weather Is Fine follows the drama’s book club winter themes and compiles its books, poems and tales read* and shared in episodes 1 to 4.

*Note that some of the poems shared in the show may not have been translated in its entirety.

A Book to Collect

The Wind in the Willows
[버드나무에 부는 바람]

(1908)
Author: Kenneth Grahame (케네스 그레이엄)
Translated into Korean by: Ahn Mi-ran (안미란), 2011

This children’s novel by Scottish author Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1908, is Eun-seob’s favorite book, so much that he owns a collection of at least twelve different editions — in Korean. He bought different versions “to see if they all tell the story the same way” as he tells Mok Hye-won (Park Min-young) in episode 1. His favorite edition, as he shares with his blog’s readers ‘The Good Night Club’ in episode 2, is the one with Patrick Benson’s (b. 1956) illustrations, published in 1994 by HarperCollins in English.

This is also the edition that Hye-won borrows from him in episode 2, and what might have inspired her to draw willow leaves with henna on her wrist the evening. In episode 3, Hye-won brings this book with her to read on her trip ‘down town’ to Caffé Tiamo — Yeongwol Jungang-ro Branch [카페띠아모 영월중앙로점] while waiting for Eun-seob to finish his business discussions.


A Book That Talks About Winter

The Person I Love
[내가 사랑하는 사람]

(2008)

Author: Jung Ho-seong (정호승)
Publisher: Yullimwon Publishers (열림원)
English translation: None

Choi Soo-jung (Lee Sun-hee) reads the poem “A Drink” from the poetry anthology The Person I Love in episode 2 to her book friends at the Good Night Bookstore’s reading club. Famous poems of the author Jung Ho-seong are collected in this book, like the title piece “The Person I Love (내가 사랑하는 사람)”, “Spring Road (봄길)” or “From Sadness To Happiness (슬픔이 기쁨에게)” — the latter is also featured in many South Korean middle school textbooks. But instead, Soo-jung choses the poem ‘A Drink’ to read aloud for the evening’s topic: poems and novels related to winter.

‘A Drink’ / ‘술 한잔’

Life has never
bought me a drink.
On many winter nights at a snack stall in a dead-end alley.
I emptied out my pockets…
to buy life a drink.
But life has never bought me a single drink.
Whether it as a snowy day or a day when stone lotus flower silently bloomed and fell.

인생은 나에게
술 한잔 사주지 않았다
겨울밤 막다른 골목 끝 포장마차에서
빈 호주머니를 털털 털어
나는 몇 번이나 인생에게 술을 사주었으나
인생은 나를 위해 단 한 번도
술 한잔 사주지 않았다
눈이 내리는 날에도
돌연꽃 소리없이 피었다
지는 날에도


In episode 3, Hye-won reads in this book at night and recites the poem ‘To the Daffodil’. Doing so, she travels back in her thoughts to a moment when Eun-seop read out the poem in front of their class and her voice becomes his.

‘To the Daffodil’ / ‘수선화에게’

Don’t cry.
To be lonely is to be human.
To live is to endure loneliness.
Don’t wait for a call that never comes

When it snows, you walk on a snowy road
When it rains, you walk down a rainy path
The black-chested sandpiper in the reed field is watching you.

Sometimes even a deity cries from loneliness.

Birds sit on branches because they’re lonely.
The mountain shadow comes down to the village once a day because it is lonely.
The peal of bells rings out because it too is lonely.

울지 마라
외로우니까 사람이다
살아간다는 것은 외로움을 견디는 일이다
공연히 오지 않는 전화를 기다리지 마라

눈이 오면 눈길을 걸어가고
비가 오면 빗길을 걸어가라
갈대숲의 가슴 검은 도요새도 너를 보고 있다
가끔은 하느님도 외로워서 눈물을 흘리신다

새들이 나뭇가지에 앉아 있는 것도
외로움 때문이고
네가 물가에 앉아 있는 것도
외로움 때문이다
산 그림자도 외로워서
하루에 한 번씩 마을로 내려온다
종소리도 외로워서 울려 퍼진다

A Book For A Very Cold Winter Day

Every Day, A Glass of Poetry
[매일, 시 한 잔]

(2019)

Author: Ko Jeong-hee at al. (고정희 외)
Publisher: BLC (Book Log Company) (북로그컴퍼니)
English translation: None

Eun-seob starts each day of his with a coffee and a book. Quickly joined by Hye-won in episode 2, he hands over his coffee and starts reading Every Day, A Glass of Poetry; both welcoming the day in calmness.

Every Day, A Glass of Poetry is a 2019 poetry collection that compiles poems by the most renowned South Korean poets, such that every reader can find their poem of the day. While Eun-seop appears to read randomly from the book, Kwon Hyun-ji (Choo Ye-jin) has seemingly already found ‘her’ poem with “Small Love Song” (조그만 사랑 노래) by Hwang Dong-kyu (황동규). She shares it with her book club friends as a poem perfectly fitting a very cold winter day (minus 17 degrees Celsius, at that) in episode 4.

The poem originally appeared in the book A Snow Which Falls in Samnam [삼남에 내리는 눈] published by Minumsa Publishing in 1975. Hwang Dong-kyu (b. 1939), professor of English Literature at Seoul University, is one of the more known poets also outside South Korea, who’s had some of his work translated to German, English, Spanish and French. He also has received several prestigious South Korean literary prizes.

‘Small Love Song’ / ‘조그만 사랑 노래’ by Hwang Tong-gyu

I received a letter which held yesterday.
The path that had always trailed behind you
suddenly disappeared,
and everything that wasn’t the path went with it.
Scattered stones
which played with us as kids
hide away their faces.
I love you, I love you … and in the cold, clear night sky
I see the steady cracking of gold.
A thin snow falls.
Unable to settle anywhere on the ground,
a pair of flakes close their eyes and tremble
as they drift together endlessly.

어제를 동여맨 편지를 받았다.
늘 그대 뒤를 따르던
길 문득 사라지고
길 아닌 것들도 사라지고
여기저기서 어린 날
우리와 놀아주던 돌들이
얼굴을 가리고 박혀 있다.
사랑한다 사랑한다, 추위 환한 저녁 하늘에
찬찬히 깨어진 금들이 보인다.
성긴 눈 날린다.
땅 어디에 내려앉지 못하고
눈뜨고 떨며 한없이 떠다니는
몇 송이 눈.

Listen to Hwang Tong-gyu reciting one of his poems.

Folktales For A Cold Winter Evening

When The Weather Is Fine (2020, episode 2)

The topic of episode 3’s book club meeting was of favorite folk tales that take place in winter. These are tales passed on in school, sometimes narrated by grandparents, and thus presented to us as part of popular knowledge. Because they are known by most of the book club members, they also take turns in reciting the tales — something that would spur you to join a book club like this one… right then and there.

But more than putting winter at center stage, these are tales of broken trust (Crane’s Return of a Favor, The Wolf’s Silver Eyelash), human’s wickedness (Yeon and Young Master Willow) and loneliness (The Wolf’s Silver Eyelash) — thus feeding into the larger narrative frame of When The Weather Is Nice and what the main protagonists are and have been experiencing.

Crane’s Return of a Favor [Tsuru no Ongaeshi/鶴の恩返し/학의 은혜 갚기/츠르노 옹가에시]


Crane’s Return of a Favor is a popular Japanese folktale that takes place on a snowy night.
It is narrated as follows by book club members and class mates Kwon Hyun-ji and Im Whi (Kim Hwan-hee):

“There was an elderly couple living in the mountains. One day, the husband rescued an injured crane. Then a few days later, a young woman came by and asked them to adopt her. (…) She weaves a fine piece of hemp fabric every night and tells the elderly couple to never peek inside the room. At first, the couple sold the fabric at the market, and the three of them were happy together. But eventually, their curiosity got the best of them, so they peeked inside the room. Inside the room, the couple saw the crane that they rescued in the past plucking its feathers using its beak and weaving the fabric using them. When the couple found out about the cranes secret, the crane became utterly disappointed in humans in general so it just flew away into the sky. The end!”

Yeon and Young Master Willow [연이와 버들도령]


Soo-jung starts to narrate this classic Korean winter folktale –again, with willows!– and when Bae Geun-sang (Lee Tae-hyung) remarks that he knows it too, she asks him to continue. When he leaves it open ended, Jung Kil-bok (Lee Young-suk) jumps in and adds the happy ending.

“This is a story about Yeon and Young Master Willow. On a cold winter day like this, Yeon’s stepmom kicked her out of the house, telling her to got find wild herbs. She combed through the fields but couldn’t find any herbs as it was in the middle of winter. Then she meets Young Master Willow. He goes to a cave and finds some herbs for her. Yeon’s stepmother becomes jealous and kills Young Master Willow in his cave. In the end, Yeon finds a flower and she makes medicine with it. Young Master Willow comes back to life and they live happily every after.”

The Wolf’s Silver Eyelash [늑대 은빛 눈썹 이야기]

At the end of the book club, it is Eun-seop’s turn to share his favorite winter tale and he narrates, with Hye-won interrupting him once:

— Once upon a time, there lived a boy. People would hurt him all the time. Because he was innocent, people always deceived or betrayed him. One day, he met a wolf on a mountain. Giving one of his eyelashes to the boy, the wolf said, “Try looking at people through this silver eyelash of mine. It’ll make you see who they really are.” Sly monkeys, cunning foxes, mean pigs, and evil raccoons. They boy saw no real people in the world. In the end, he decided to look for a place where real people live.
— Did he find such a place?
— No. He could not find any place where real people lived. So the boy eventually lived alone in loneliness and died.

As nrllee points out in a comment on Soompi, this tale not only narrates Eun-seop’s loneliness but mirrors also the one of Hye-won and both their quest of a possible trust in fellow humans. S/he also highlights how Hye-won also “gave her own version of an alternate ending to that story” in the drama: “Whilst Eun-seop’s version had the little boy dying a lonely death (one of resignation to his fate), hers was one where she would hug the little boy and tell him that he was not alone in this world.”

(Please note that this might be a fictitious ‘folktale’ invented for the drama or book [see below]).

A Book For A Very Cold Winter Eve

Owl At Home
[집에 있는 부엉이]

(1987)

Author: Arnold Stark Lobel (아놀드 로벨)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Korean Translation: Eum Hye-sook (엄혜숙)

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the youngest in the book club, Jung Seung-ho (Han Chang-min), chooses Owl At Home, a children’s book by American author Arnold Stark Lobel (1933–1987), as the book he wants to share under the ‘cold winter day’ theme. “Owl was at home,” he reads to everyone and continues: “Owl said: ‘It feels so good to be sitting by this fireplace. It’s so cold and snowy outside.’ And then he heard someone knock on his door. It was poor old winter. Owl thought to himself: “All right, I’ll be kind and let winter come in.” “Winter, come on in! Come inside and warm yourself for a while.” Yes. This is what Owl said to winter. “Winter, you’re my guest. Behave yourself.”

When The Weather Is Fine (2020, episode 2)

When Seung-ho has finished, Im Hwi turns to Lee Jang-woo (Lee Jae-wook) and requests for him to recite something that will make everyone feel even colder. He answers that he had meant to recite ‘Me, Natasha and the White Donkey (나와 나타샤와 흰 당나귀)’ — a poem by Baek Seok (백석)– if they hadn’t already at the end of their meeting.

‘Me, Natasha and the White Donkey’ / ‘나와 나타샤와 흰 당나귀’ by Baek Seok

(translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid)

Tonight the snow falls endlessly
because I, a poor man,
love the beautiful Natasha.

I love Natasha,
the snow falls endlessly,
and I sit alone, drinking rice wine.
Drinking rice wine, I think:

the night the snow falls endlessly
I would like to ride, with Natasha, upon a white donkey
to a remote, mournful mountain village and live in a cottage.

The snow falls endlessly.
I love Natasha.
Natasha must be coming.
She has already come in quietly and tells me:
“You throw away such a thing as the world because it’s muddled,
but going to a remote mountain doesn’t mean you lose it all.”

The snow falls endlessly,
the beautiful Natasha will love me,
and somewhere the white donkey, too, will cry out,
delighted with tonight.

가난한 내가
아름다운 나타샤를 사랑해서
오늘 밤은 푹푹 눈이 나린다
나타샤를 사랑은 하고
눈은 푹푹 날리고
나는 혼자 쓸쓸히 앉어 소주를 마신다
소주를 마시며 생각한다
나타샤와 나는
눈이 푹푹 쌓이는 밤 흰 당나귀 타고
산골로 가자 출출이 우는 깊은 산골로 가 마가리에 살자
눈은 푹푹 나리고
나는 나타샤를 생각하고
나타샤가 아니 올 리 없다
언제 벌써 내 속에 고조곤히 와 이야기한다
산골로 가는 것은 세상한테 지는 것이 아니다
세상 같은 건 더러워 버리는 것이다
눈은 푹푹 나리고
아름다운 나타샤는 나를 사랑하고
어데서 흰 당나귀도 오늘 밤이 좋아서 응앙응앙 울을 것이다

Until the next book recap…
… STAY WARM

… and share with everyone here your favorite winter texts in the meantime!

Read On

When The Weather Is Fine (2020, episode 3)

Did you know? The drama The Weather Is Fine is itself based on a book. The book is called I’ll Visit You When The Weather Is Fine ‘날씨가 좋으면 찾아가겠어요’ and was written by Lee Doe (이도우) in 2018.

Special thanks to Earthna (DB) for the additional translations for ‘To A Daffodil’.

Here are more of our book-related posts on KDL

Rediscover the Joys of Reading at these K-Dramaland Bookstores
The Books in ‘Because This Is My First Life’
The Books in ‘Encounter/Boyfriend’
The Books in ‘Romance Is A Bonus Book’ — Part 1
The Books in ‘Romance Is A Bonus Book’ — Part 2

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