Little Pilgrim

Ko Un, Author, Brother Anthony of Taize, Translator, Young-Moo Kim, Translator . Parallax $18.95 (381p) ISBN 978-1-888375-43-5

Un, a former monk, admits he had no interest when, years ago, a senior monk suggested he compose an epic poem on the endless wanderings of the child Sudhana in his quest for truth as portrayed in the last book of the Avatamsaka (Garland) Sutra. Later, after leaving the monastic life, Un identified with Sudhana's quest and in 1969 began publishing regular newspaper installments (in prose) of The Little Pilgrim (which have since become the first 30 chapters of this book). The story, completed here, is a series of 53 encounters between a young orphan boy "whose heart is awakened" and various teachers (some in the guise of animals and supernatural creatures). Sudhana makes his spiritual journey throughout India. The prose—translated from the Korean by An Sonjae and Young-Moo Kim—varies, with some beautiful descriptions ("The sunlight poured down, turning the innumerable crests of the indigo waves into flashing blades and splintered mirrors") and some improbable ones ("The fleshy bulge on the crown of his head was like nothing so much as an altar-covering"). Un, Korea's foremost contemporary poet, was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002 and 2004. Despite the author's impressive credentials, though, this may be a difficult story for all but the most ardent Buddhist readers. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/18/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
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