After Kim Yiyoung and Han Kang, Yun Ko Eun is my newest discovery. Table for One is inspired by a new phenomenon among the young Korean - especially women - the lifestyle of going alone to eat, drink, to movies or trips. According to the 2015 local census, South Korea has over 5 million single people, mostly in their mid-30s. Single by choice or just unable to make place in their life for a relationship for many reasons - psychological or due to the workload - they continue to live in a society whose emphasis is on family and togetherness. A society that seems to be in denial of the reality of their new generation. Going out on your own continue to be a shame and Table for One deals with the anxieties of young women - ´For a woman to come alone at 7.00 pm, it is sort of change´ - and men of enjoying their lives, no matter what. ´People eating alone worry more about stares from others than they do about menu options´.
Therefore, they need to learn how to get the best of this lifestyle and end their self-isolation of eating and drinking at home and not doing anything really social. A course about how to eat alone is teaching the participants - in exchange of a greasy fee - not only to make the right choice of food without bothering what other people think, but also to enjoy the food in a musical-like rhythm. Keep your eyes in your plate and try to connect the inner music of your plate, with bonus a short conversation with the waiter, and your evening is done. A successful evening. After all, eating with someone requires so much preparation of the topics to discuss, outfits etc.
I really enjoyed the reading - in translation, by Lizzie Buehler who also translated The Disaster Tourist by the same author that I am looking forward to get to know in the next weeks: the short sentences do create a perfect description of an intense inner-emotional scenery, although there is not too much action happening - except moving the plates and enjoying the various foods. I cannot vauch for the different Korean dishes as I have a limited familiarity with this cuisine.
I personally have mixed feelings about the topic as such. Long time ago I considered eating alone as a sign of social and personal failure but once my world opened up and I reorganized my priorities I am very much at ease eating alone and doing many activities on my own too - including when I am not single. To be honest, I really enjoy being on my own, with a good book and having a full tasting of my food, without being under the pressure of having a conversation. Professionally, I often have to eat on my own for various food reviews and writing assignments. On the other hand, nothing compares with sharing food with friends. Food is also a social experiment and I can´t imagine fully enjoying a meal made in my beloved Middle East enjoyed alone. I also don´t believe that we, humans, we are meant to live and be alone and enjoying being single is not an option that I consider.
Sociologically, but also as a literary topic, Table for One by Yun Ko Eun is an interesting read about a culture I have a limited knowledge about, but with literary voices that impress me every time I get in contact with.
Rating: 4 stars