First Published: as 소년이 온다 by 창비 May 19 2014
Genre: literary fiction
Source: proof from publisher via LibraryThing Early Readers Program
Human Acts was something I did not expect, and I think that says a lot about the media we’re presented on a daily basis. From the synopsis alone, one might be expecting something sensationalized and indulgently violent – like the news. If I get across nothing else in this review, Human Acts is not that.
It is beautiful. Painful. Purposeful.
There are no souls here. There are only silenced corpses, and the horrific putrid stink.
I think, in fact, that the lack of dramatics for the sake of fearmongering is part of why I felt a disconnect with it. Despite the beautiful prose and harrowing subject matter, it may have been the frank tale of such a gruesome event as the Gwangju Uprising (yes that is Wikipedia, and as good a place to start as any, if only to find more sources) that left me a little hollow. I have become so used to sensationalized feelings, to melodrama, that it was difficult for me to feel anything but numb while turning these pages. Despite everything that has happened in the world this past year, something with this book did not click for me. This is not a criticism of the book, but myself – Han Kang is a master storyteller, just not what I am used to. That does not make this book any less important.
For the rating system I use for books, this is three stars – a solid good. As for me, I’m going to do some more research into the Gwangju Uprising and Han Kang herself. Maybe a bit of soul-searching and pulling back from scanning headlines. I have already reserved a copy of The Vegetarian at my local library, because I need more of Han Kang’s works in my life.
I received a proof from the publisher via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. This has in no way affected my review.