Human Acts

Human Acts by Han Kang

Rating: 5 stars

Amazing and devastating.  Human Acts is written as a series of short stories that are connected through the brutal violence during the Gwangju Uprising.  It begins with a student searching for his missing friend during the uprising.  While deep down he already knows what happened to his friend, he tries to hold out hope while helping to care for the deceased.  He and some other volunteers sit morbid vigils, watching over the bodies until their families manage to find and claim them.  Each subsequent story moves to another person who was affected by the violence, traveling through time to the present day.  Kang manages to both subtly and forcefully show how the effects of the violence that May continue to haunt the characters and shape their lives long after the massacre ended. 

This books starts during the same time period in South Korea as another book I recently read, Everything Belongs to Us.  However this book is focused solely on the Gwangju Uprising, and its aftermath.  Everything Belongs to Us touches upon the protests as Jisun tries to become involved in social activism, but is more of a story about college friendships and relationships.

This book was a powerful read, and I recommend it to anyone interested in literature that explores the aftermath of violence and grief.


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