Human Acts

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.



This book will give you nightmares so don’t read it at night or near bedtime. The story about the 1980s Uprising in South Korea is encased in the horrific deaths of adults and children. You will feel like you’re being punched in the gut as the stories of brutality roll by your eyes which will not stay dry for long. As a parent having to read what mothers had to go through, what they had to do for their children, I don’t think that’s something you ever truly recover from or can let go.

Han Kang knows how to make history become reality with her detailed and effervescent writing style. She makes you feel like you’re actually there living, breathing and dying alongside the memories of these brave people. Reading what they go through really puts the current protests in America in a new perspective; even as people are out there saying they are fighting for their rights they are able to go back home, to work, to their loved ones, etc instead of lying dead on the roadside. Americans even take their right to protest for granted forgetting, not caring, or out of ignorance at the fact there are places around the world in the modern era where speaking is a death sentence.

Kang writes a chapter for each voice over a thirty year period giving the faceless back their identity to a multitude of people as they all describe the ripple effects of that week so long ago but never forgotten. She is an unspoken hero in her effort to provide immortality for a group of people who deserved so much more than how they were treated just for trying to right some wrongs. Kang examines humanity through the best and worst of lenses showing the wide spectrum of human actions and emotions. She gives life to the dead through her words and provides a sense of poetry to the darkness.

This book needs to be read and history remembered if only to ensure those who sacrificed did not do so in vain.

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