Human Acts

“Human Acts” by Han Kang (South Korea)


Readers described this book as a lyrically written account of a horrendous event and its aftermath. They felt that the descriptions swayed from hard and heavy – with the passages on decomposing corpses and torture – to ethereal – with the ghost reflecting on what happens after death and the survivors’ memories. Readers found the linked stories told from different points of view highly effective and it gave them new insights on scenes told earlier by other characters. They also liked the way each character’s story moves forward in time creating a distance from the initial event. It allowed an interesting discussion to ensue among readers about survivor’s guilt. Nonetheless, they would have liked to see a little more character development, especially for the boy’s friend and his sister. Readers appreciated the epilogue where the author shares her sense of responsibility to tell this story in such a way as to respect the sacrifice made by the protestors, as well as a testimony to human dignity. Overall, it averaged an 8 out of 10.


Gwangju, South Korea, 1980. In the wake of a viciously suppressed student uprising, a boy searches for his friend’s corpse, a consciousness searches for its abandoned body, and a brutalised country searches for a voice. In a sequence of interconnected chapters the victims and the bereaved encounter censorship, denial, forgiveness and the echoing agony of the original trauma… Read more

Nicola’s Book Club reading list

Season 21 (Oct 2017 – Feb 2018)
“Embers” by Sandor Marai (Hungary)
“Human Acts” by Han Kang (South Korea)
“Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea (Mexico)
“Lyrics Alley” by Leila Aboulela (Sudan) *
“Shantytown” by César Aira (Argentina)

* The book club favourite
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur

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