I Am the Subway


‘Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba- dum, ba- dum‘ goes the rattle and clatter of the subway about Seoul. This is ‘one of the longest in the world’. What’s more, it carries ‘an average of 7.2 million people’ on its city lines. Kim Hyo-eun welcomes us aboard with a poetic text that describes individuals riding the subway, alongside watercolour pictures.

Thereafter, we meet the exhausted school girl, the overburdened mother with the curious son and hidden baby, the grandmother heading to cook a fish feast for her daughter and granddaughter. Alongside their arrival, we anticipate their purpose of joining the train, and tap into their thinking, hopes and wishes.

Bookwagon is awed by this absorbing, magnificent book of real human life. We recommend it for looking over and reading and talking about at home, and then for knowing and sharing in school. What’s more, we hope there will be further books about Korea and more, from Kim Hyo-eun, and more translations for Deborah Smith. We love and recommend I Am the Subway to all our readers.

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I Am the Subway

Kim Hyo-eun

Translated by Deborah Smith

(Scribble)– hardback

I Am the Subway that rattles and clatters’ over the tracks. Same time, same route, every day‘. What’s more this transport travels ‘over the ground and rumble[s] under, twice across the wide Han River‘. It seems it carries ‘crowds of people‘ constantly, with each one holding a different story.
Thereafter, we meet Mr Wanju, ‘running late again’ at Hapjeong station. It seems his ‘lovely daughter makes [him] late for work’. However he’s quick to make the journey home from work to ‘see her smile‘. Meanwhile Granny brings ‘fresh fish to [her] family in Seoul, octopus and abalone will be in the ‘feast for [her] girls’.
Rather as with Milo Imagines the World, we step aboard and learn about those who join us on this rail route about Seoul. Not only does every passenger have a different reason to journey, but each has different feelings, hopes, dreams and concerns. Then again, it seems each is familiar with this route, rather like the transport- ‘ba- dum, ba- dum, bad- dum, ba- dum’. 
While the storytelling is compelling, its raised to another level by the author’s watercolour pictures. They suggest a constancy, emptiness, an eternity to the journey and route.
Bookwagon is enthralled by I Am the Subway. We recommend this superb Korean translation to share, mull over, read, gift and love. What’s more, it’s an ideal title to extend a reading range, an understanding of the world about us. This is a magnificent book.


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