Ji Ri Park
Darwin Young’s Origin of Evil
Sakyejul Publishers,Korea 2016
Winner of the Sakyejul Literary Award, Red Award and of Korean Book Award given by Hanbook Daily. It has been adapted into a stage performance by the Seoul Arts Center. Author tragically committed suicide after the publication of this novel – her last novel.
Compared to A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES meets INFINITE JEST, this is a magnum opus written by a 25 year old writer who tragically committed suicide after the book’s publication. She spoke the voice of her generation and along with Won-Pyung Sohn, they are is the most significant young Korean voices of the times.
After reading Darwin Young’s Origin of Evil’, which poses fundamental questions about the nature of evil and human existence, readers will never forget the name Park Ji-ri. The editor at the publishing company was not bluffing when he said he read the whole manuscript through without stopping. Although the book is 856 pages long, readers are kept on the edge of their seat throughout due to the well-written story and the trials, tribulations and conflicts between the characters that paint a vivid picture of humanity. The story is set in a rigid class society ranked from Area 1, where the elite live, to Area 9, which is inhabited by those at the bottom of the social ladder. Prime School is the best school in this society, an exclusive institution with a long history and stellar reputation that only the cream of the elite class can enter. This school is used as a mechanism to emphasize the special nature of the book’s setting.
The three main characters are Rumi, who is trying to uncover the truth about her uncle who was murdered as a child, Darwin Young, a model student at Prime School, and Leo, a stubborn child who is rebellious and skeptical about the school. Together, they work to unravel the sealed secret of Darwin’s grandfather, Runner. As the story of the family’s secret history comes to light, it reveals something about the nature of human guilt.
On the final day of every year, each person must step barefoot onto a special scale that measures the weight of their sin. People with more than three grams of sin is not allowed to enjoy the new year, and a young boy believed that they should be forced to pay the price. His death, and the never- ending cycle of crime perpetuated through the blood-stained hands of a man and his son trying to cover up the crimes of his father, demonstrate the potential for evil that lies in every person. The book asks readers to consider the weight of the primitive evil that lies inside humans and whether we have the right to punish such evil. The point is that we should not ignore how the struggle to prot your vested interests can change the direction of your life.