Human Acts:

A Novel

An Amazon Editor’s Top Pick for January 2017

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.

Editorial Reviews

“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 grim but heartfelt performance, touching on the possibility of forgiveness and the survival of the spirit.The Sunday Times A harrowing journey… By its very existence Human Acts is an important and necessary book…Astonishing.The National
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)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 (5 star review)
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 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
Han Kang’s writing is clear and controlled and she handles the explosive, horrifying subject matter with great warmth.The Times
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

Author Biography

Han Kang was born in Gwangju, South Korea, and moved to Seoul at the age of ten. She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University. Her writing has won the Yi Sang Literary Prize, the Today’s Young Artist Award, and the Korean Literature Novel Award. She currently teaches creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.

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Reader Biography

Deborah Smith has written a number of contemporary novels, including A Place to Call Home, On Bear Mountain, and The Stone Flower Garden. There are more than 2.5 million copies of her books in print. She is married and lives in the mountains of northern Georgia.

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