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Human Acts (2014)

by Han Kang

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,19217516,462 (4.18)200
Fiction. Literature. HTML: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-hos 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.

Shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award
Amazon, 100 Best Books of 2017
The Atlantic, The Best Books We Read in 2017
San Francisco Chronicle, Best of 2017: 100 Recommended Books
NPR Book Concierge, 2017s Great Reads
Library Journal, Best Books of 2017
Huffington Post, Best Fiction Books of 2017
Medium, Kong Tsung-gans Best Human Rights Books of 2017
.
… (more)
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» See also 200 mentions

English (183)  Catalan (1)  All languages (182)
Showing 1-5 of 181 (next | show all)
Very uncomfortable to read but that's exactly the point. I have a very complex process that determines what book I read next, and this happened to come up immediately after I finished a Korean history course, so I was well primed for this one. The events in the book felt very dystopic, but even my very basic knowledge of Korean history (chillingly) confirms they were not.One star off because I personally got a bit annoyed with some stylistic choices, but that could just be a me thing. Overall, not mad at it. Highly recommend. ( )
  ejerig | Oct 25, 2023 |
Perfect. ( )
  Kiramke | Jun 27, 2023 |
Letto con una certa fretta di arrivare alla fine, per uscire dall’abisso di terrore e sofferenza in cui conduce. Trovo che la principale funzione di questo libro sia ricordare e far conoscere. Il resto, compresa l’apprezzabile struttura dei diversi punti di vista espressi dai singoli capitoli, passa un po’ in secondo piano. ( )
  d.v. | May 16, 2023 |
Human Acts is a powerful novel about the aftermath of the 1980 Gwangju uprising in South Korea against Chun Doo-Hwan's military government. The uprising was brutally repressed by the military, who beat, shot and killed protesting students, with thousands of civilian casualties.

Han's story starts with four people who, in the wake of the first shootings, are working in makeshift facilities to try and help the victims and take care of the bodies of the dead. They are a young man, a schoolboy and two young women. As the novel progresses Han tells the story of what happened to these people and the impact of repression on them and their colleagues and families.

This is a hair-raising, often brutal book, with detailed descriptions of killing, torture and abuse. It is not for the faint-hearted. That said, it also has beautiful poetic moments where the resilience of the victims shines through in the face of the most brutal human acts.

I'd happily give this book 5 stars, except that I found it pretty confusing. Han shifts the focus of her narrative to a new person in each chapter. Much of it is written in the second person, so the current subject of the story is just referred to as "you". A lot of the time she does not identify clearly who the current narrator is either. With some similarity in a lot of the names, I found myself flipping back and forth trying to make sense of who I was reading about now, and where I had encountered them earlier in the narrative. I don't think this should have been necessary in such a short novel. ( )
  gjky | Apr 9, 2023 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A moving, personal look at the Gwangju uprising and some of the lives it touched (for better or for worse) from the 80s through today. Though short, the novel gives us a glimpse into a part of Korean history that many outside of the country knew little about. An excellent novel filled with emotion. It's conveyed well, especially for such a short novel (just over 200 pages in English). Recommended.
( )
  callmecayce | Feb 5, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 181 (next | show all)
Human Acts is an easy book to admire but not an easy one to read.
 
The result is nothing short of breathtaking. It’s also brutally honest, graphic in its depiction of death and torture (waterboarding, a wooden ruler shoved into a character’s vagina, you name it), and unrelentingly bleak.
 
Human Acts grapples with the fallout of a massacre and questions what humans are willing to die for and in turn what they must live through. Kang approaches these difficult and inexorable queries with originality and fearlessness, making Human Acts a must-read for 2017.
 
But Han Kang has an ambition as large as Milton's struggle with God: She wants to reconcile the ways of humanity to itself.
 
Kang’s masterful pacing and extraordinary attentiveness allow her to recount the gruesome history of the Gwangju Uprising while returning — always returning — to nuanced scenes of kindness and love, which pour light upon an otherwise desolate backdrop.
 

» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Han Kangprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jung, GretaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kim, JenniferNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oh, SandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, DeborahIntroduction and Translationsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Looks like rain," you mutter to yourself.
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I never let myself forget that every single person I meet is a member of this human race.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Fiction. Literature. HTML: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-hos 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.

Shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award
Amazon, 100 Best Books of 2017
The Atlantic, The Best Books We Read in 2017
San Francisco Chronicle, Best of 2017: 100 Recommended Books
NPR Book Concierge, 2017s Great Reads
Library Journal, Best Books of 2017
Huffington Post, Best Fiction Books of 2017
Medium, Kong Tsung-gans Best Human Rights Books of 2017
.

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