Han Mahl-sook was born in Seoul in 1931, the youngest of four children of a scholarly family. She graduated from Seoul National University with a degree in Linguistics in 1955. She taught literature and Korean language at Seoul National University for fourteen years. In more recent years she has written many newspaper columns and essays spotlighting social and political problems.  
She began her literary career in 1957 with the publication of a short story, Shinhwaui tanae(Shattered Myths) in the journal Hyondae Munhak(Modern Literature). In 1964 she was awarded the Outstanding New Writer Award by the same journal and in 1969 she received the Best Literature Award presented by the Hankook Ilbo newspaper.  
She has published six short-story collections, three novels, and a collection of essays. Her works have been translated into English, French, Czech, Chinese, Portuguese, German, Polish, and Japanese. "Shattered Myths" was made into a 1959, while another short story, Yosu, 1977(Travel Weary Blues), was filmed in 1978 and made into a television film in 1989.  
Her main interest lies in the wounded psychology and disturbed ethical standards of the individuals portrayed in her tales. The trauma of the Korean War underlies these topics, which in many stories lead to a failure of love and human relationships in general. In one story, Shinkwaui Yaksok(A promise to God, 1968), she depicts a mother's struggle between faith and atheism, and in many ways the attitude to life found in her work may be described as existential.  



It continued to rain for four days, and the muddy water from the flooded river covered the rice paddies and the fields. Three more days of rain and Tashik's hut would be washed away.  
Tashik stood on the porch and watched the whole village that stood upstream being swept away by the water. The straw roofing of huts floated by. Moth-eaten pillars were being carried off. Everything was rolling wildly down the river in the same direction:broken cabinets, torn-off doors, lids of pots....  
Tashik watched them silently.  
His bride was sitting by the oven in the hut. She stared at her husband's back. She too was silent.  
Several rats dashed out of the kitchen and onto the porch, climbed a beam there, came down again, and darted away. The bride could hear them squeaking underneath the porch. Rats are very sensitive to floods;their holes are the first to be destroyed by the water.  
The bride continued to stare at her husband, too absorbed in him to worry about their hut.  
They had been married the day before and had just spent their first night together. At breakfast she dared not look at his face. She was a bashful woman, and looked down while she ate. Perhaps he was shy also, for he too had kept silent. However he had added two extra spoonfuls of cooked rice to her bowl. There is a saying that two spoonfuls bring a man and his bride closer together, and she blushed as she thought of this.  
She had only met him once before they were married, and all she had seen of him then was his feet. Nor could she see him last night in the dark. So she did not know what he looked like, even though they had already spent a night together. She knew that he was of medium height and that his body was strong. But she had not yet seen his eyes and nose and mouth, although once the matchmaker had said that there could hardly have been a more comely man.  
She herself knew she was not very pretty. But she was dark-complexioned, and had heard it said in the village that the young men there maintained that her dark dewy eyes made them feel numb and set their hearts pounding.  
Their simple wedding took place ten days after they were engaged. Tashik had decided to marry her although he had never seen her before. He knew she was the eldest child in a large family. Her parents consented to the marriage. They were glad to reduce the number of mouths they had to feed, even by only one.  
Because of the rain, nothing delicate was prepared for the wedding. There was only a plateful of rice cakes, two dishes of cooked rice, and two bowls of soup, all placed on the table in the hallway of the home of Mr. Lee, a landowner for whom Tashik worked. When the food was set before them, Tashik and the bride bowed to each other and became man and wife. There were no guests at the wedding, but Tashik was happy.  
The bride had nothing to bring as a dowry, not even a piece of cloth. After the wedding ceremony, Tashik came across the hill to the hut with two spoons, two pairs of chop-sticks, two bowls, a can of red-pepper mash, a can of soy sauce, and a cooking pot, which he carried on his back. The matchmaker and the bride followed him. On her head she carried two blankets and a pillow. This was their only bedding.  
The rain let up for a moment, then it began falling harder and harder until it became a forceful downpour. The bride was startled as she suddenly became aware of the beating rain. She smiled to herself, glad that her husband did not notice her fear.  
A small centipede fell to the floor and landed upside down, its white belly showing. It turned over. When it started to run away, moving its scores of legs, she crushed it with her foot. Another one fell. It landed on her shoulder. She brushed it off and stepped on it. The wet straw roof was infested with centipedes.  
The hills nearby were so bare of trees that one could scarcely hear cicadas, even in midsummer. There had always been floods in the region and no trees could grow. But at least there were no snakes. Floods are horrible, but snakes make them worse. Snakes cling to men as they are being washed away by the water. "It is a good thing that there are no snakes," the bride said to herself.  
More rats dashed out of the kitchen and darted under the porch.  
The bride looked at her husband as he stood at the edge of the porch. His sturdy, well-tanned legs were greatly reassuring to her. She blushed as she thought of their first night together. And she could feel her heart pounding as she began to think of the evening ahead and what would take place again.  
Tashik stood on the porch and continued to stare at the water. Since his childhood he had worked as a farm hand for Mr. Lee. He was an honest man, and he worked hard;he knew Mr. Lee was especially fond of him. A few days ago Mr. Lee had come to the hut and found Tashik at work papering the walls with newspaper. Formerly the hut was used by a forest guard. "Well, well, you sure are in a hurry, aren't you?" Mr. Lee said, laughing.  
Tashik smiled as he remembered Mr. Lee's good-natured remark.  
More and more objects came floating by in the muddy, rapid water. A sauce jar drifted down and bobbed irregularly until it sank. Bundles of clothing, wet pillows, hooks and pans, an aluminum pot... silently and swiftly they floated past and disappeared down the river.  
Tashik only noticed the things which he wanted most.  
His eyes widened as he watched the debris float past. He would follow a floating object with his eyes until it was out of sight. Then he turned his head and looked upstream again, ready to follow another one.  
Something white drifted by, and behind it came something bright and colorful. It was a blanket and a quilt! Perhaps they had been bound together with straw ropes before, for bits of straw cord floated in disarray alongside them.  
"Bedding," he mumbled to himself, "bedding bedding!" That was something he really needed. The blanket and quilt drifted closer to the hut. His eyes sparkled. Quickly he turned his head and looked back at his bride. Her dewy eyes met his own. He wanted to speak but could say nothing. She covered her face with her hands, and he realized that this was the first time she had seen his face.  
He turned and looked at the water again. "Bedding," he said again. The quilt and blanket were far out of reach by now. They floated away, now close together, now far apart. As soon as they were out of sight, Tashik looked upstream again.  
"My husband, my darling..." he heard his wife saying softly.  
But at that moment he cried out as if in battle, leaped from the porch to the ground, and dashed into the rain. Glancing quickly over his shoulder he noticed his bride jumping to her feet. But he kept running.  
In no more than ten strides he reached the river and plunged in. "Darling!" he heard his wife cry as he swam wildly towards midstream.  
The rain began falling harder. It came in torrents.  
Tashik swam directly into midstream and clutched at a large pigpen. He clung to it, and knew now that his wife would understand what he was doing. Surely she remembered what Mr. Lee had said:"I will give you a little pig soon. Let's see what you can do with it."  
The little pig will grow up. In six months it will be ready to bear young. Sometimes a pig has as many as five or six in a litter. They too grow up and bear. The males can be sold, the females kept. Sell the males and keep the females! One pig brings in ten or fifteen thousand yuan. And the droppings from the pigpen make the best manure. With pig manure the rice crop will be a better one.  
He had not been able to get a pigpen. They are expensive, for they must be strong and well built. Otherwise the pigs break them and get away. Tashik wanted to be sure his pigs would not get away What good are pigs if they escape, he thought as he grabbed one corner of the pigpen and tried to pull it ashore.  
He pulled hard, but the pen was locked in the current. The swift water would not yield an inch.  
The pigpen was made of logs about two feet long and several inches thick. They were fastened tightly together with wire. It was large enough for perhaps ten pigs. This would be perfect for us, Tashik thought.  
"Come on, let's go!" he shouted, pulling at the pen. Water was being splashed all over his head. He wiped it from his face with one of his big, hardened hands.  
The water was up to his waist. The river seemed to be boiling under the punishment of the pelting rain.  
Somehow the waves pushed the pigpen up on the shore. "Hurrah!" he cried, overjoyed. He scrambled up on the bank and pulled the pen towards him. But at the next moment another wave carried it back into the muddy water.  
"Hey, wait a minute. Stop there!" he yelled out, clinging to the pen. It rode on a surging wave and began to float wildly down the river. He could not let the pigpen go;if he did he might drown. Nor could he hold on to it either;how far would he be carried if he did? He was panicky.  
He wanted to cry out for help, but that would be useless. There were no houses along the shore, and no one would be out in such a rain. Even his hut was out of sight now.  
He looked for a raft. Often during the rainy season men ride along the swollen river on rafts, pulling things out of the water so they can sell them later. In a flood such as this one they make small fortunes.  
The pigpen rolled and tumbled crazily in the flooded river. It would smack into a wave and Tashik would be splashed with a torrent of muddy water. He closed his eyes and mouth tightly to keep mud out of them. For a moment the water would be calm and the rain washed the mud off his face.  
The low hills along the shore were utterly strange to him. He did not know where he was now. Only God knew how far downstream he had come.  
He was too frightened now to worry about the pigpen. He could think only of getting back to shore somehow and going home.  
He was completely soaked. A shiver shot through his whole body. Above anything else the cold was to be dreaded. He would not be able to swim if he became too cold. He was really afraid.  
He looked around again and cried out for help. Suddenly he saw a raft not more than fifty yards away. There were two men on it. His eyes brightened.  
He called out again. But the men on the raft either did not hear him or pretended not to. They paid no attention at all. He remembered having heard someone say that the raftmen were heartless, and it angered him now. Money might be precious, but how can men ignore someone in danger?  
"Hey there!" he yelled. "Help! Help!" He let go of the pigpen and began swimming for the raft. But he had to swim against the current, which made the going twice as hard. The muddy water splashed mercilessly against his face, into his eyes and ears and nostrils. Tashik blew hard through his nose, lifted his head as high as he could, and kept on swimming.  
After struggling against the current for some time, he looked up and found the raft floating further and further away. He was hot with anger. If he should ever reach the raft, he thought, he would throw those two bastards into the river!  
But he kept swimming across the current towards the raft. He could scarcely control his direction. At last he was thrown onto a sandbar which was barely covered with water. He stood up, relieved to be out of the muddy water. He breathed deeply for a while, swinging his arms back and forth to get warm. He moved his arms rapidly, shook his head, and wiggled his whole body to loosen up his muscles. From where he was standing he could see that the swollen river had doubled its normal width.  
It was not raining very hard now. He yelled at the raft once more.  
"Help! You lousy devils, help!"  
Neither man responded. One of them was pulling something out of the water with a hook.  
"Help!" Tashik shouted.  
Again there was no answer. He choked with anger.  
It began to rain harder again. Suddenly the sandbar collapsed under his feet and he tumbled back into the water, startled. But the raft was much closer to him now, closer than either shore was. He swam feverishly and reached the raft. He grabbed for it and hung on until one of the men pulled him up.  
Apparently they recognized him. "Aren't you the newlywed who works for Mr. Lee?" one of them asked. "What happened? How do you come to be out here?"  
Tashik did not try to answer. He was out of breath and exhausted. He had even forgotten his determination to push the raft-men into the water. He did not know them, but he assumed they were villagers.  
For a while he lay with his eyes closed, barely conscious. At last he sat up and began to examine himself. Nothing was left of his shirt except a little scrap of cloth which hung onto his right shoulder. The rest of it must have been washed away. The same thing had happened to his trousers. His leather belt and a fragment of cloth which had clung to it were all that remained around his waist. He was naked.  
There were pots, pans, hoes, shovels, and all sorts of household utensils on the raft. But there was nothing to cover his naked body with.  
"Where are we?" he asked at last.  
"A little past Dang Goul," one of the men answered.  
So, he was not too far from his home after all. He looked towards the shore and saw the hill which rose behind the hut. He was just across the hill from his home;he had followed the bend of the river which curves around that hill. He was relieved.  
It was getting dark. It must be well past the supper hour. He had been in the water for nearly the whole afternoon.  
"Say, young Man," one of the man on the raft asked him, "you were married yesterday, isn't that right?"  
"In this rain?"  
The raft drew closer to shore. The men said they would let Tashik off before they picked up anything else from the flood.  
When the raft was almost at shore, he suddenly spied the pigpen that he had been trying to salvage. It had been washed up onto the bank. His face lit up and he jumped into the muddy water.  
"Thanks a lot," he shouted to the astonished raft-men, dashing out of the water and across the river bank.  
He pulled at the pigpen. But it was waterlogged and hard to move. He realized he could never carry it home this way. He looked for the place where the wire was knotted and loosened the knot. The pen fell apart instantly. Then he tied the wood neatly together with the wire. And although the precious bundle of wood was very heavy, he dragged it behind him.  
Naked, he headed home, pulling the wood all the way. He was shivering with cold. The rain was not chilly, but it stung him like pellets of ice after his long hours in the water. But it did wash the dirt off his body.  
The bride burst into tears when he reached the hut. She must have cried a great deal, for he saw that her eyes were swollen. He looked at her and tried to smile, but he collapsed onto the floor.  
She felt his body shiver violently. She put a blanket under him and covered him with the other one. But he kept shivering. There was nothing else to cover him with. She wanted to cry.  
She tried to build a fire, but nothing would burn. She came back to him.  
She watched the blanket shake as he shivered. Tashik was rocking with chills. He seemed to be out of his senses. The bride knew that her husband had to be warmed somehow. She tried to think of how she could give his body warmth.  
She took his hands into hers. She felt herself blushing, but told herself that it was not a time to be shy. His hands were icy cold. Shocked and afraid, she frantically pressed her body against his as she massaged his hands. Her heart pounded. Then she thought she could warm his body with her own. But he shook more violently as she snuggled close to him.  
Wildly she rubbed his body everywhere. Then she took off her blouse and pressed her breast against his. He kept shaking. In silent hysteria she tore off her skirt and underwear. She no longer felt bashful. All she could think of was how to make her husband warm. She pressed her naked body hard against the cold, naked body of her husband.  
Gently now, she covered his whole body with hers. She tucked his shoulders under her armpits and covered his knees with her thighs.  
She pressed her mouth upon his blue lips. His lips were ice-cold, his eyes tightly closed. He was completely unconscious.  
With her own lips still upon his, she sensed his upper lip stiffen. They say the upper lip stiffens when one is about to die, she recalled. Her heart sank.  
To prevent his upper lip from growing stiff, she began to suck it and her husband's nose. With one hand she rubbed his body. She had no other way to warm him, no medicine, no fire. And there was no neighbor to help her.  
Outside it was dark. The rain continued to fall.  
"Don't die. Please, don't," she repeated quietly, over and over again. She felt the tears flooding her eyes.  
Her arms ached, and her lips ached too. But she kept on sucking.  
Finally, his body began to get warm. But now it was becoming too warm. He became hot as a burning stove. He began to cry out incessantly, shouting unintelligible syllables. His mouth was burning, and now his lips became dry whenever she took her mouth away. She moistened his dry lips with her tongue.  
All night it continued to rain.  
As dawn came Tashik's fever began to subside. He awoke.  
The bride made a bowl of gruel. Tashik sat up and washed his face. It seemed to have grown thinner during the night. Still, it was a full, strong face.  
As she placed the gruel before him she looked up at him lovingly. He sat there and smiled timidly at her.  
Outside the rain fell violently.  
A centipede fell from the ceiling into the sauce jar on the table. Oh my goodness, she thought, even before he has touched the gruel. She was ready to cry.  
But Tashik picked up the centipede with his thumb and forefinger and threw it out of the room. Then he poured the sauce in the gruel and swallowed the whole bowlful in one long gulp.  
He pushed the table aside and seized her as she was about to rise to get him more. He held her tight.  
Her dark dewy eyes were inflamed. They were fastened against his own eyes as her lips clung to his. She could scarcely breathe.  
The rain kept falling, harder and with more force than ever.  

Translated by Dong Sung Kim
Professor of English, Teachers College, Seoul National University