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Notebook on Cities and Culture’s Korea Tour: Shapeshifter with Stephane Mot

stephanemotNotebook on Cities and Culture‘s Korea Tour is brought to you by Daniel Murphy, David Hayes, and The Polar Intertia Journal, an outlet for artists and researchers documenting the urban condition.

In Seoul’s Sinchon district, Colin talks with Stephane Mot, “conceptor,” writer of fiction, nonfiction, “nonsense,” and author of the blog Seoul Village as well as the collection Dragedies. They discuss Paris as a “recurring hero” of literature and Seoul as a “shapeshifter” glimpsed from different angles in different stories; how he got involved in the early days of internet gaming, surviving three startups in three years; the French embassy job that brought him to Seoul in 1991; why he prefers winter in Seoul to winter in Paris; the difficulty of walking in Seoul when first he got there; the first of the city’s “villages” that convinced him to explore more; what kind of relationship with Paris he has as a ninth-generation Parisian, and what it has gained by his becoming a partial outsider; when he first began writing about Korea; why of the two important subjects of love and death, he sticks to death; his “Borgesian experience” of discovering the internet; the subjects to which he finds himself returning in Seoul over and over again; why he writes in both French and English; his definition of a city as a scar; what he sees happening to the Korean social fabric, and how it works differently in France; the difference between the new-built urban places of Songdo and La Défense; what happens when a city has “no place for storytelling”; why he searches maps for crooked streets; what got the cars out of Sinchon; his “biggest shame,” his relationship with the Korean language, which keeps its learners thinking they’ve never learned enough; his skill with “Korean silence”; the Seoulite’s constant grieving for what has disappeared, or what will soon disappear; why he writes about the “gaps” on the maps; how having one’s own fictional Seoul prevents insanity; how more people now really come from Seoul, resulting in new senses of belonging and identity; the emerging schizophrenia between the “Korean wave” and Korean tradition; what remains unformed in Seoul to keep him awake; the reasons to hope offered by the increasing consciousness of and affection for Seoul; and the possible end of the “lemming race” to the capital.

Download the interview here as an MP3 or on iTunes.

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