“Two people sat side by side, their shoulders resting against each other.
Like sand on a beach about to be swept away by the waves.”
This romance novel by author Lee Hyeok-jin, winner of the Hankyoreh Literary Award, depicts a passionate, daring, and flamboyant yet realistic office romance between four bank employees in all its details.
The novel depicts a workplace romance between four characters—Sangsu, Suyeong, Jong-hyeon, and Mi-gyeong—offering a glimpse into all aspects of their lives, from the constant glances they throw at each other, to their emotions, salaries, homes, and cars, trappings of capitalism which may serve as symbols of success for some, but also as a source of inferiority complex for others. Despite their desire to understand each other, the characters are constrained by their conflicting interests, which stand in the way of their love. The book delves into the impact of hierarchy on every aspect of our lives, with a focus on how it affects our relationships and love lives. The irony of the story lies in the fact that all the characters yearn to understand each other deeply, yet they feel compelled to prioritize their own interests first. This novel explores the dichotomies of love such as passion and indifference.
What are the things we say when we are in love, and the things we keep for ourselves when we break up?
Love is like a battlefield without bullets where emotions and capital, images and reality, as well as conflicting desires, collide. Love makes us more vulnerable than anything else. The cold gaze used to describe the absurdities of corporate culture applies to the love between a man and a woman all the same. On the surface, the novel may appear as a simple love story between wandering souls, but digging deeper, one finds that it is an exploration of the feelings surrounding love—the things we say when we are in love and the things we keep silent about when we part ways. Understanding Love lays out the most basic theory behind love and its many facets.
Is love exchangeable, too?
The bank exists independently from the story, but the story is intrinsically linked to the bank. Banks, where value-based decisions are made in pursuit of creating more wealth, serve as a symbol of the capitalist mindset prevalent in modern society. When the characters contemplate whether love is a tradable commodity, they realize that while they crave love, they also have additional expectations from their relationships. This underscores the struggle between love and materialism. The novel acts as a mirror that reflects our emotions and provides insight into how our feelings towards love change depending on circumstances. In a sense, Understanding Love offers the most materialistic perspective on love and its many facets.
Reference: Minumsa . "Understanding Love", http://minumsa.minumsa.com/book/15088/. accessed 1 October 2023.