An Amazon Editor’s Top Pick for January 2017
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.
Read by Sandra Oh, Greta Jung, Jae Jung, Jennifer Kim, Raymond J. Lee, and Keong Smith, with an introduction read by Deborah Smith
A grim but heartfelt performance, touching on the possibility of forgiveness and the survival of the spirit.The Sunday Times “Harrowing…Human Acts portrays people whose self-determination is under threat from terrifying external forces; it is a sobering meditation on what it means to be human.Financial TimesA harrowing journey… By its very existence Human Acts is an important and necessary book…Astonishing.The National
Searing…In Human Acts [Kang] captures the paradox of being human: the meat-like, animal reduction of our humanity—the dead bodies of the beginning chapter – alongside our ability to love and suffer for our principles, and die for them, that make us truly human. She is excellent in summarizing this paradox… 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 Han Kang’s writing is clear and controlled and she handles the explosive, horrifying subject matter with great warmth.The Times
This is a book that could easily founder under the weight of its subject matter. Neither inviting nor shying away from modern-day parallels, Han neatly unpacks the social and political catalysts behind the massacre and maps its lengthy, toxic fallout. But what is remarkable is how she accomplishes this while still making it a novel of blood and bone. The characters frequently address themselves to an unnamed “You”… This sense of dislocation is most obvious when a dead boy’s soul converses with his own rotting flesh – and it’s here that the language comes closest to the gothic lyricism of Han’s previous book, The Vegetarian…By choosing the novel as her form, then allowing it to do what it does best – take readers to the very centre of a life that is not their own – 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.Eimear McBride, The Guardian
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 WeeklyWith 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
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
A rare and astonishing book, sensitively translated by Deborah Smith, Human Acts enrages, impassions, and most importantly, gives voices back to who were silencedThe Observer (UK)Revelatory … nothing short of breathtaking… In the end, what Han has re-created is not just an extraordinary record of human suffering during one particularly contentious period in Korean history, but also a written testament to our willingness to risk discomfort, capture, even death in order to fight for a cause or help others in times of need.San Francisco Chronicle But where Kang excels is in her unflinching, unsentimental descriptions of death. I am hard pressed to think of another novel that deals so vividly and convincingly with the stages of physical decay. Kang’s prose does not make for easy reading, but there is something admirable about this clear-eyed rendering of the end of life.Boston Globe Absorbing… Han uses her talents as a storyteller of subtlety and power to bring this struggle out of the middle distance of ‘history’ and into the intimate space of the irreplaceable human individual.Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Kang explores the sprawling trauma of political brutality with impressive nuance and the piercing emotional truth that comes with masterful fiction... a fiercely written, deeply upsetting, and beautifully human novel.Engrossing… The result is torturously compelling, a relentless portrait of death and agony that never lets you look away. Han’s prose—as translated by Deborah Smith—is both spare and dreamy, full of haunting images and echoing language. She mesmerizes, drawing you into the horrors of Gwangju; questioning humanity, implicating everyone… Unnerving and painfully immediate.Los Angeles Times The long wake of the killings plays out across the testimonies of survivors as well as the dead, in scenarios both gorily real and beautifully surreal.Vulture Compulsively readable, universally relevant and deeply resonant... It lacerates, it haunts, it dreams, it mourns... ‘Human Acts’ is, in equal parts, beautiful and urgent.New York Times Book Review[Han Kang's] new novel, Human Acts, showcases the same talent for writing about corporeal horrors, this time in the context of the 1980 Gwangju uprising.TIME MagazineHan Kang’s Human Acts speak the unspeakable.Vanity Fair 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
Deborah Smith is a New York Times bestselling author of numerous contemporary romance novels, including A Place to Call Home, On Bear Mountain, and The Crossroads Cafe. There are more than 3 million copies of her books in print. She is married and lives in the mountains of northern Georgia.
- Publisher: Random House Audio
- Genre: Fiction/Literary
- ISBN-13: 9781524703998