translated by Jae Won Chung
THE FLAT LOOKED neat and tidy. It had a living room that doubled as a bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom, complete with a tub long enough to stretch out in.
When Bat and his wife had first opened the door to the flat, the afternoon sun had blinded them as it poured through the white curtains draped across the south window. The curtains filtered the light and spread it like fine golden powder across the floor. Below the window was a steam heater, which left the room’s air comfortably warm but smelling faintly of heated metal. The room was furnished around the edges with a khaki-coloured sofa bed, a TV and an old glass table with a phone on top of it. The style was a little severe, making the place feel as if it were somebody’s office, but Changdae thought it would do just fine.
‘The flat is in typical Russian style,’ Dolma said as she pulled the curtains aside. Dolma was Bat’s wife. Her words touched Chang-dae, evoking something not unlike nostalgia. ‘Russian style’ meant northern style, and he had never been this far north his entire life. He would have to think of a name for this room. The Siberian Room. That would do. This was far south of Siberia. The land wasn’t even part of Russia but he felt, all of sudden, a sense of being close to the very origin of things.
They were on the eighth floor, and he could look down from here at the sea of grey exhaust that seemed to overwhelm the city in an impervious haze.
‘It’s an amazing view,’ he said...
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