Human Acts

Human Acts

A Novel

Book - 2016
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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.

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, 2017's Great Reads
Library Journal , " Best Books of 2017"
Huffington Post , "Best Fiction Books of 2017"
Medium , Kong Tsung-gan's "Best Human Rights Books of 2017"
Publisher: New York : Hogarth, [2016]
Edition: First U.S. edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9781101906729
Branch Call Number: HAN K
Characteristics: 218 pages ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Smith, Deborah 1987-- Translator


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LPL_PolliK May 04, 2018

A stunning book, one you will read while holding your breath. Set in Korea during the Gwangju student uprising in 1980, this book captures an event and a political reality I knew nothing about, but now will never forget. Kang writes hauntingly about the uprising, the emotions, the killings, the t... Read More »

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Feb 05, 2021

I don't know how I want to rate this novel. I feel like I'm not qualified to rate it because I feel like I didn't fully comprehend it. Now I'm not stupid, I knew what was happening chapter-to-chapter, but they were all somehow supposed to connect and have some overarching theme that I think I was too dumb to connect. I also felt really distant and separated from the characters. It jumped around so much between the POV of different people that I wasn't really able to connect with any of them and I feel like I was supposed to. With how heavy of a topic it was covering (Gwangju Uprising), I would hope to feel at least a little bit more attached to it than I was. Maybe it's because I don't really know about the uprising. This book is originally written in Korean, where it happened (duh, South Korea), so Koreans reading it in its original text already have a connection or memory of it. I watched a couple videos about the uprising after I finished for context. It was so sad but I didn't feel that emotion while I was reading. Maybe I'm coldblooded. Or maybe I'm just missing something. I think it's the latter. I don't want to rate it poorly because I didn't understand it. The average of this book is 4.17 on Goodreads, so obviously a lot of people like it. I think I'm going to give it a three. There's a reason Namjoon read this and recommended it. I haven't figured out that reason yet, but I think I might return to this and try again in a few months or years. Side note: I love the cover.

Jun 07, 2020

Humanity’s brutality is on full display in Han Kang’s beautifully written novel. Kang focuses on a seminal event in South Korean history, the May 18 uprising and the death of a young boy and how that death has impacted the survivors. Reading through an American lens, Human Acts reminds me that liberal democracy is not born out of subservience to authorities but often through violent demands for change and those of us in the United States should not take what we have for granted.

Jun 30, 2019

The story of the Gwangju student uprisings in 1980 in South Korea, which led to many deaths and years of torture for many young people, is told through the experiences of a few people. In the epilogue, Kang, who was born in Gwangju, recounts her path to this novel. A harrowing read, but very good.

May 13, 2018

Confusing characters and timeline. Not nearly as successful as "Vegetarians."

LPL_PolliK May 04, 2018

A stunning book, one you will read while holding your breath. Set in Korea during the Gwangju student uprising in 1980, this book captures an event and a political reality I knew nothing about, but now will never forget. Kang writes hauntingly about the uprising, the emotions, the killings, the torture - events that still resonate today - with sensitivity and truth. The story of 15-year-old Dong-ho and those connected to him will stay with you for a long time.

Feb 17, 2018

// The souls of the departed are watching us. Their eyes are wide open. \\
Well chosen words to convey the unfolding scenes of grief and horror during the Gwangju Uprising, a precursor to democracy in South Korea.
Although a fictionalized account, the author, Han Kang, recipient of many literary awards and a poet, lived in Gwangju during that period and provides a powerful rendering of events, the emotional spectrum of heroic people sacrificing their lives for the greater good!

vm510 Jan 11, 2018

I don't mind the heavy subjects in Han Kang's books and I also learned a lot reading this book. I kept thinking throughout how easily the state - and the humans who carry out the state's violence - can torture, maim, and kill citizens. I kept thinking about the unending pain and sorrow people feel after experiencing violence (PTSD, dreams) or after losing someone close to them to state-sanctioned violence.
My qualms with this book have more to do with the different narrators, who go through wretched and horrible things, but who I rarely felt connected to. The Vegetarian also used multiple narrators, but unlike Human Acts, I felt way more connected to The Vegetarian's characters and compelled to finish without stopping. Many people enjoy Human Acts' message and storytelling better than The Vegetarian, though, so I might be alone in this.

Cynthia_N Jan 04, 2018

I can't say that I enjoyed reading this one but it was very powerful and moving.

Nov 05, 2017

“ was only when we were shattered that we proved we had souls.” -Han Kang, Human Acts

“Why are we walking in the dark, let’s go over there, where the flowers are blooming. “ -Han Kang, Human Acts

“Please’ write your book so that no one will ever be able to desecrate my brother’s memory again. “ -Han Kang, Human Acts

A brilliant, masterful, poignant novel. It underscores the fact that oppressive regimes can destroy the lives of decent, hardworking people but not their soul. Essential reading today when the indolent POTUS can make flip remarks about destroying North Korea and killing thousands; and likely causing death and unimaginable suffering from collateral damage to South Koreans, Japanese, and others, including Americans.

Marlowe Apr 21, 2017

Han offers the reader a glimpse into the horrific acts of violence surrounding the 1980 Gwangju uprising in South Korea, and their aftermath. Through multiple perspectives, the reader learns of the totalitarian violence, the omnipresence of fear, and cult of memory, that arose. The stories are separate, but usually have a connection through characters, places, or events. It can occasionally be difficult to understand the narrator's voice. The author has a unique use of the pronoun "you." This is a beautiful and sad historical fiction, about a time and place in history I was unaware of.

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