“Human Acts” by Han Kang #BookReview

30091914Han Kang is one of the greatest writers of the century and “Human Acts” justifies this title!

It is the 1980 and Korea is boiling. Only a few months previously Park Chung-hee, the strong military man that seized authority of the country via his coup in 1969, was murdered. The Korean people cannot stand the military law enforced by his successor. Things turn uglier instead of better. Men and women get out in the streets to protest and request martial law is withdrawn immediately. Police and military forces are sent to subdue the uprising. The military forces make no exception, no discrimination at all. Men and women, elder and young, teens and university students, mothers and children. They shoot at everyone that stands in their way. The kick bodies and heads as if they were sacks of straw.

A young boy, Dong-ho is part of the demonstration. He is there along with a friend. When the soldiers start shooting, people start running on every direction. He is separated from his friend but he can see a bullet going through his ribs. He only tries to find a safe place until the shooting stops, to stay alive. He manages so and he helps with the ugly work to reconnect the bodies with their bereaved. This doesn’t last long…

Dong-ho’s killing is the trigger point of the story. The author gives in every different chapter a different view of the the same and coming facts in Korean history. Starting from the young boy itself, Dong-ho, his friend that was so abruptly killed in the demonstration, an editor struggling with censorship, a prisoner, a factory girl, even Dong-ho’s grieving mother. Through their voices, their traumatic memories, their torture and heartbreak the author attempts to speak the voice of truth.

This is not a happy book… This is not an easy read. It is a book of human brutality, greediness, taking full advantage of power and authority over everyone. This is a book about how human can underestimate human life. The cruelty described in here is part not only of the Korean military forces of the time, but of people with any kind of authority throughout the world. Human acts can project inhumanity to its greatness…

On the other side, there are also the acts of hope, the acts of greatness, the acts of kindness that the heroes of this book demonstrated. The altruistic way those volunteers worked in order for the dead to be recognised and buried, in order to claim their right of freedom of any kind, in order to be able to live as human beings in their own country is amazing.  We can only respect the people that participated in the uprising; those who died and those who were left behind, half men and women, trying to assimilate…

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


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