|Mariko The Killer|
|Publisher||The House Publishers|
|Publication date||2011 (Lovia)|
|Media type||Print (paperback)|
|Rating(s)|| Nova Times |
The Lovian News
|Preceded by||Burning Halls|
Mariko The Killer is a Lovian 2011 drama/crime novel by Kim Dae-su. The book tells the story of Mariko, a Korean immigrant who looks back on his life. The novel contains three plot lines which all build up to the point where the main character tries to kill himself. Mariko The Killer is Dae-su's most famous work and contains elements of historical and autobiographical nature. It touches upon themes such as emptiness, detachment, vengeance and beauty. Dae-su took over a year to write this novel and commented himself that he doubts he will ever accomplish this level of artistry again. It was published by The House Publishers.
The title refers to the fact that the main character can be held responsible for most deaths which occur in the novel, including his own.
The main plot line of the novel accounts of the last day in Mariko's life. Mariko is a Korean immigrant in an English-speaking country, presumably Lovia though it might also be the United States. He is wakened early in the morning when his old youth crush Lee Young stands on his doorstep. Mariko had been sending Young letters regularly over the past years, though she never replied. Lee explains she has left Korea in a rush and didn't know any other place to go. Confusion makes place for happiness. Nevertheless the confrontation with his past clearly unnerves the otherwise so controlled Mariko. They have a conversation in which Lee reveals to be pregnant. Mariko as an adapt smoker, smoking ever since he stopped drinking, agrees he will not smoke in her presence. Trough a series of flashbacks we are introduced to a secondary plot which is revealed gradually as we advance trough Mariko's last day.
The secondary plot is about Saigo, Lee's brother with whom Mariko served in the Japanese army during the second World War. The close friendship is shown between the two men, as well as growing friction as a relationship between Mariko and Lee develops. At the height of a dispute about both the causes for the war, which Saigo believes to be just, and the controversial relationship Mariko walks away. In anger he leaves his post to meet with Lee. While Mariko and Lee have sex, the improvised military post is attacked by rebelling Chinese peasants. Saigo, frightened that the Chinese peasants might rape his sister and thus deprive her of her virginity (something the religious Saigo was obsessed with), he blows up the encampment with gasoline as the Chinese rush in. Irony has it that the explosion coincides with the culmination of Mariko and Lee's loving. Trough discussion between Mariko and Lee in the present it is also revealed they both suffered a lot from Saigo's death: Lee blamed Mariko for leaving his post and Mariko couldn't be in Lee's presence anymore without being reminded of his mistake. They grew apart from that day on.
A third story is introduced as Lee reveals the real reason for her leaving of Korea. We learn what became of Mariko after the war (though this story line is introduced way before the war-part is ended). Mariko's family died in the war and he spend all the family possessions which were now his. He left for the city where he drank, gambled and payed women to be with him. In a short period he lived up all he had and more. By the debt he created he was forced to work for a local criminal lord, mister Baek. After some minor jobs which include extortion and robbery, Mariko was brought aboard for a bigger hit which would mean the end of his debt if he completed it. Police control had tightened lately and Baek wanted to send them a message: Baek and his band of cons were to blow up the main police station. Mariko however becomes frightened and leaves his post which causes the plan to fail. The police station blows up too early, having all of the crooks still inside. Mariko decides to flee the country.
The main plot line intertwines with the other two stories and continues with the reason for Lee's coming. Lee couldn't find a marriage partner because she had lost her virginity and thus was thrown out by her family. She had resorted to prostitution but couldn't deal with the beatings from her employer anymore. Lee also fears the worst as her employer will probably find Mariko's letters, which she did keep. The girl actually came to warn him as Lee's employer would certainly send someone after him too, thinking of Mariko as the father of her child. Mariko informs Lee they will take the next flight out of the country, jokingly remarking that it better doesn't fly to Korea. Lee has the idea to set up a fake suicide which she will put into scene while Mariko goes to collect some money a friend still owes him. Bad luck since he encounters Lee's employer along the way who also turns out to be a heavily burned Baek. Baek recognizes Mariko and throws some of the letters in his face, the start of an exciting chase (here ends the crime plot line). Baek ends up being clubbed to death by Mariko wielding a hammer (here ends the war plot line). He happily returns to his home, lighting a cigar taken from Baek's body upon entering his flat. Lee had just turned open the gas and a big explosion follows.
Mariko The Killer holds many of Kim Dae-su's trademarks and it is generally accepted as his masterpiece. The novel is technically complex, intertwining multiple plot lines and settings. It is also cyclical in nature, featuring repeating patterns such as arguments and explosions. Also typical for Dae-su are the huge descriptions of action, spinning a moment out over various pages. This mostly coincides with an excessive aestheticization of violence. An example taken from the novel is the heroic description of Saigo's suicide which takes place (and is described at) the exact moment of an orgasm experienced by Lee. Another noticeable feature is the omnipresence of crime and violence, being able to 'find' Mariko in all of his rural, urban and suburban environments. Other themes touched upon are vengeance, sin, detachment and the inability to love or understand another person.
The novel also includes a great deal of humor, albeit mostly ironic or even cynical in nature. Examples include the idea that smoking kills or the part where the narrator is having fun in killing Baek, stating that 'my only motivation was sheer pleasure, not vengeance nor justice or fear but the pure amusement the bashing of his bloody skull gave me'. The detached attitude of the main character towards drama and violence in his proximity leads to a minimization of it and might in an estranged way be experienced as witty too. The fact that most of the novel is written in first person perspective makes the violence even harder to take, ruling out all distance between the reader and the acts. An important exception are the explosions which are told from a third person perspective.
The first copies of Mariko The Killer were sold on May 5th, 2011. The expectations were from the beginning high with both officials and the public at large. Responsible for the distribution, The House Publishers announced the novel as the author's best work yet. Dae-su himself also accounts it as his masterpiece. Several reviews of the book have been given, most of which are positive. Nova Times gave the book a starred review, noting power emotions within the text. The newspaper referred to the novel as an 'instant Lovian classic' and gave it a maximum of five stars. Considering this rating, Mariko The Killer is amongst the most well received publications of 2011.