My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have never read a book like this.
Nor do I think I ever will.
Kang’s writing, and Deborah’s translation are unbelievably raw and powerful. Human Acts delivers an account of the deaths of school children, adults, mothers, fathers alike in South Korea – all who stood for something. Stood to help others. It is a true account of events.
I feel as human beings we like to glamorise death. When we all die, we look pretty in our coffins or we burn to ash.
This book lets us experience death first hand, but through the eyes of the person that has died. It tells us exactly how it looks, and it’s the hardest thing I have ever had to read. It makes you realise how small you are in the grand scheme of things. It makes you realise how disgusting our actions as human beings can be. We have no reason for them – we just do them. Because we can. That is the scary part – we don’t think. We just do.
We follow six perspectives in this book surrounding this event, a voice from a boy who’s friend died at the beginning, the ghost of said boy, a editor, a factory worker, the mother of the boy from the start – all raw excerpts from their side of events.
This was the first book I read that was told in second person ‘You this and you that’ I found this even more intimate as it felt like that glamorised blanket was being ripped down before your very eyes and you were imagining those horrors and indeed those truths on yourself. Which I think, for this subject was the best choice Kang could have made.
The language and writing style was poetic, moving and compelling in a way that you knew there wasn’t a happy ending only the ending that was true.
My favourite line was describing the soul to be like a bird- the visual impact this had broke me into tears and the image is definitely now engraved in my mind.
‘Something seemed to flutter up from her face, like a bird escaping from her shuttered eyes above her oxygen mask. You stood there gaping at her wrinkled face, suddenly that of a corpse, and wondered where that fluttering winged thing had disappeared to.’
This book is a book which cannot be overlooked or sidelined. It’s raw, it’s realistic, and it’s brutal in the deep poetic depths the author writes from. You should read it because, it’s definitely an experience, and it opens your eyes to the world. Not to be deliberately horrified but to the truth. We live a very sheltered life, and not everyone has that privilege. We can no longer hide from the disgusting acts people commit, we need to face them – together. This book shows us that in death we are all equal – and what happens after death is all the same, no matter who you are. And that is one of the hardest truths to tell.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.