Human Acts: Book summary and reviews of Human Acts by Han Kang

Human Acts

by Han Kang

Human Acts by Han Kang
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2017
    224 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

From the internationally bestselling 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 bestseller, 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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A fiercely written, deeply upsetting, and beautifully human novel." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. This jarring portrayal of the Gwangju demonstrations will keep readers gripped until the end." - Booklist

"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." - Publishers Weekly

"Han prepares us for one of the most important questions of our times: 'What is humanity? What do we have to do to keep humanity as one thing and not another?' She never answers, but this act of unflinching witness seems as good a place to start as any." - The Guardian (UK)

"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 (UK)

"Han Kang's writing is clear and controlled and she handles the explosive, horrifying subject matter with great warmth." - The Times (UK)

"Searing…In Human Acts [Kang] captures the paradox of being human ... If it hopes to tie the personal with the political, it does the former so much more powerfully: a mother thinking of her dead son, for example, displays literary mastery – as subtle and specific as it is universally heartbreaking." - The Independent (UK)

"A technical and emotional triumph... A conversation of which we rarely hear both sides: the living talking to the dead, and the dead speaking back." - The Sunday Telegraph (UK)

"A grim but heartfelt performance, touching on the possibility of forgiveness and the survival of the spirit." - The Sunday Times (UK)

"A rare and astonishing book, sensitively translated by Deborah Smith, Human Acts enrages, impassions, and most importantly, gives voices back to who were silenced." - The Observer (UK)

"Human Acts is a stunning piece of work. The language is poetic, immediate, and brutal. Han Kang has again proved herself to be a deft artist of storytelling and imagery." - Jess Richards

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Han Kang was born in 1970 in South Korea. In 1993 she made her literary debut as a poet, and was first published as a novelist in 1994. A participant in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, Han has won the Man Booker International Prize, the Yi Sang Literary Prize, the Today's Young Artist Award, and the Manhae Prize for Literature. She currently works as a professor in the department of creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.

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