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Publisher's Summary

From the internationally best-selling author of The Vegetarian, a "rare and astonishing" (The Observer) portrait of political unrest and the universal struggle for justice.

In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed.

The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho's best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho's own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice.

An award-winning, controversial best seller, Human Acts is a timeless, pointillist portrait of an historic event with reverberations still being felt today, by turns tracing the harsh reality of oppression and the resounding, extraordinary poetry of humanity.

Read by Sandra Oh, Greta Jung, Jae Jung, Jennifer Kim, Raymond J. Lee, and Keong Smith, with an introduction read by Deborah Smith.

©2017 Han Kang (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Human Acts is elegantly written, unflinchingly brutal and absolutely real. It is not so much a novel as it is a profound act of connection; it is beyond powerful. Han Kang is what most writers spend their lives trying to be: a fearless, unsentimental teller of human truths." (Lisa McInerney, Baileys Women's Prize-winning author of The Glorious Heresies)
"Harrowing...Han's novel is an attempt to verbalize something unspeakable...But she humanizes the terrible violence by focusing on the more mundane aspects: tending and transporting bodies, or attempting to work an ordinary job years later. And by placing the reader in the wake of Dong-ho's memory, preserved by his family and friends, Han has given a voice to those who were lost." (Publishers Weekly)
"With exquisitely controlled eloquence, the novel chronicles the tragedy of ordinariness violated...In the echo chambers of Han's haunting prose, precisely and poetically rendered by Smith, the sound of that heartbeat resonates with defiant humanity." (New Statesman)

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CONTEXT

This is a truly horrific novel about a South Korean uprising in 1980 but it lacks historical context.

For one unfamiliar with South Korean history, the intent of describing the consequence of government slaughter of innocents is subsumed by numberless atrocities of the past. Kang undoubtedly intends to recount an historical event with universal meaning but succeeds in only offering a cathartic exercise for a gifted writer.

Man's inhumanity to man is an historical fact. Novels about government atrocity are mentally numbing without historical context.

The reality of today's North Korea is more mindfully present than Kang's un-contextualized story of South Korea. "Human Acts" is a disappointing novel.

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Tedious

the drones on endlessly about dead bodies by the end of the second chapter I was totally bored.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful