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Human Acts: A Novel by Kang Han

Human Acts: A Novel (2014)

by Kang Han

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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52015527,865 (4.22)161
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Human Acts🍒🍒🍒🍒🍌
By Han Kang
Translated from Korean by Deborah Smith.
Hogarth/ Random

Aptly titled, the acts in this book by humans to other humans force us to take a serious look at how our actions are a lasting testament to all humanity of what we personally believe in and define as "human".

This book covers the period of 1980 to 2013, looking back on the effects of the Gwangju Uprising in South Korea in 1979-1980, each chapter from the perspective of a different person from a different year....all involved in the fight of oppression and for democracy.

It begins with the death of Jeong-Dee during a student demonstration against Chun Do-hwan military coup, when he placed the entire country under martial law under the pretext of national security. Government troops were sent to remove all protesters. Students were rounded up and subjected to harsh and barbaric tortures. This went on for 10 days.Waterboarding, electric torture, Hairpin Torture ( both arms tied behind their back with large piece of wood between the bound wrists and the small of the back). But the one that bothered me the most was Roast Chicken ( trussing victims with ropes, suspending them from the ceiling, where they are beaten with clubs while being spun around). Jeongs best friend, Dong-Ho attempts to find him...or his body....

Powerful.....Fierce.....non apologetic....the honest, unforgiving tone is exactly what makes it so good....so real.....so hard to read....
Highly recommended, this is a short book that will stay with you a long time.
Highly Recommended ( )
  over.the.edge | Sep 16, 2018 |
This book recounts the Gwangju student uprising through the brutal memoirs of a small cast of participants. Gwangju took place while the rest of the world was watching the eruption of Mount St. Helens on 18 May 1980. Korea had just gone through the assassination of a dictator in October of 1979 and the country was in turmoil as other high-ranking officers jockeyed for position. When General Chun staged another coup in December of 1979, the country was awash in a pro-democracy student movement. The general declared martial law and authorized a crack-down on the "communist" infiltrators supposedly from North Korea. This set the stage for Gwangju where protesters eventually fought back against a paratrooper unit sent to the area to quell the uprising. Although accounts vary, most believe somewhere between 200 and 600 deaths occurred as a result the violence that lasted slightly more than a week. Some soldiers died, most after two occasions where they attacked their own units, the majority of the casualties were young students from middle-school to university age. Han Kang tells this story and the traumatic aftermath through diverse characters that carry deep scars from the events. She asks if this violence is just part of the human condition? Is killing our own species just something that takes place from time to time? ( )
  Kevin.Bokay | Aug 5, 2018 |
This is a sombre and deeply moving book, which bears witness to the brutal suppression of an uprising that took place in 1980 in the city of Gwangju in the south of South Korea (where Han Kang was born), an event I knew nothing about.

It reminded me a little of Vasily Grossman and his account of the Ukrainian famine in Everything Flows - this book has the same unflinching attention to gruesome detail, and as such was not an ideal choice to read over Christmas, but it is a book that is haunting and memorable. ( )
  bodachliath | Feb 23, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book was such a difficult read. I had to put it down and take a break even though it is a fairly short book. I read many books about Korea due to personal connections through people I know and while it is hard to process such cruelty, it was definitely worth reading. ( )
  jazzyereader | Feb 6, 2018 |
This was a powerful and moving story, told in an unusual fashion. The story can be hard to read because of the brutality mentioned, so consider this a warning. There is nothing crass, but the author definitely does not mince words. This novel made me wish I knew more about South Korea's history, especially about the Gwangju Uprising. I liked reading from the different perspectives of the characters but it did get quite confusing at times to keep everything straight and understand how the different characters were connected (if they were at all)! Overall, a brilliant job in depicting the brutality of a tragic historical event.

I received this novel as an advanced reader copy from Blogging for Books and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
( )
  veeshee | Jan 29, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Han, KangAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smith, DeborahTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, DeborahIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I never let myself forget that every single person I meet is a member of the human race
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Follows the aftermath of a young boy's shocking death during a violent student uprising as told from the perspectives of the event's victims and their loved ones. When a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed in the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. Through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope unfolds the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice.… (more)

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