I am making a bold statement when I say this is so much better than The Vegetarian.
The story starts with a 15-year-old boy named Dong-Ho desperately searching for the corpse of his best friend in the aftermath of a mass massacre. In the center of the novel is South Korea’s Gwangju Uprising, a mass protest against the South Korean military government that started in May 18, 1980. (Which became the pivotal moment for South Korea’s struggle against authoritarian regime and their fight for democracy.)
The themes in this book deals with otherworldly entities, much like The Vegetarian, Han Kang explores the self, the soul and its meaning.
The narrative is in second person that threw me off and also drew me in. It jumps around characters’ point of view till you get to the culmination of the novel. Han Kang is unsparing in her words and she creates a difficult and unbridled imagery that lingers.
Human Acts does not make for a cheery read, this is not for the faint of heart. I recommend this book to readers of Historical Fiction and those who love macabre stories. Also, it is recommended that you read about the Gwangju Uprising and the horrors of the event for you to get the full experience of this amazing novel.
This book of Dazai was written in the spring and early summer of 1945. The story opens up with the narrator,Dazai himself, reading the story of the folktales to his children when the air raid is happening and they are in the confines of the bomb shelter.
There are four stories in this book of fairy tales; The Stolen Wen, Urashima-san, Click-Clack Mountain and The Sparrow Who Lost Her Tongue, in which Dazai attacks and analyzes the characters, the plot and the relevance of the story and the impact of it in children during his time. He compulsively reflects and projects his real-life concerns in the book and persistently provides commentaries on the events of the stories, ultimately retells the stories and add more depth to the characters and the plot. The theme that is uniform across Dazai’s novels–the apathetic acceptance of loneliness (which is found heavily in No Longer Human) is also established in this book; it is a classic Dazai theme where the main character does not find sustenance with his surroundings thus resigned to live his/her life in loneliness and “desirelessness”. An example would be the princess in Urashima-san, who owns leagues and leagues of land but is content on smiling at people and proceeds to staying in her chambers not thinking of anything and not talking to anybody; as well as the man in The Sparrow Who Lost Her Tongue who “spends the rest of the day in his desk, wriggling on his cushion or nodding off or jerking awake until dinnertime and hits the sack thereafter”. An additional theme that is also present, is the appearance of utopia, places of reprieve where the characters find themselves free to do what they please (the story of Urashima-san when he finds the Dragon Palace), a place you can find warmth that you cannot have at home (the Sparrows Inn in The Sparrow Who Lost Her Tongue). None of this is permanent, of course, but the characters are transformed and have found peace in themselves when they leave the utopia.
This is my 4th story of Dazai and so far, it doesn’t disappointment. His place in the Japanese literature is well deserved. Highly recommended!
This volume encompasses her friendship with Henry Miller and his wife June, her complicated relationship with her father, her interest in psychoanalysis and her struggle as an artist. She immensely talks about the self, and her search for the woman, Anais. She writes, “I have always been tormented by the image of multiplicity of selves. Some days I call it richness, and other days I see it as a disease, a proliferation as dangerous as cancer. My first concept about people around me was that all of them were coordinated into a WHOLE, whereas I was made up of a multitude of selves, of fragments.” I am mesmerized with her insights about the facets of woman penned with so much candor and passion.
Anais Nin is absolutely the writer I endeavor to become. She writes beautifully, elegantly and articulately. Even the most tedious thing that happen in her life comes alive because of her mastery with words. She is drunk with life. Whenever I read her diary, it gives me such a feverish delusion that I could write like her, too.
I could only wish I was less critical of my own writing to write freely and unbound as she did. This is a deeply powerful read–I recommend it to all women readers.
Wait. How does one even review a diary? I am doing her no justice.
PS: The fact that this is an expurgated diary eluded me. I feel really daft. HAHA
PENGUIN LITTLE BLACK CLASSICS NO. 4
Author: Thomas De Quincey
Title: On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts
Summary: The provocative early-nineteenth-century essayist casts a blackly comic eye over the aesthetics of murder through the ages.
My Thoughts: So this book is about a group of gentlemen discussing about the aesthetics of murder. This is in satire form. But you know, all satire’s lost on me except of course Animal Farm (which is a great book BTW). Much to my disappointment, there was no detailed gore in this book.
Rating: 2/5 stars
PENGUIN LITTLE BLACK CLASSICS NO. 5
Author: Friedrich Nietzsche
Title: Aphorisms on Love and Hate
Summary: The iconoclastic German philosopher’s blazing maxims on revenge, false pity and the drawbacks of marriage.
My Thoughts: Honestly, this is a poor example of Nietzsche’s philosophising. This is too short and you can’t even comprehend some of the things that he’s trying to say. This review is only for this edition. I believe that you should not pass up reading this great work!
Rating: 4/5 stars
PENGUIN LITTLE BLACK CLASSICS NO. 6
Author: John Ruskin
Summary: The radical Victorian art critic’s excoriating defence of dignity and creativity in a world obsessed by money.
My Thoughts: Traffic is like a college minor subject you have to go through to get credits. For what it’s worth, I did enjoy and agree to some points but that’s about it. It would’ve been nice to listen to the audio as this is a lecture. It’s difficult to read it off a page.
Rating: 3/5 stars
P.S. I have reached an impasse with these little black classics. My goal was to read through all of them by the end of the year but the last few have been quite painful to read. So the best thing would probably be to just read 2-3 books per month and I think I need to dedicate a few hours just to read it. I’m starting to think that it was not a good idea to get the entire collection.
I opted to just review three Penguin Little Black Classics books in one post, as my reviews for this series is usually short. So here is my review for Books No. 1 to No. 3.
PENGUIN LITTLE BLACK CLASSICS NO. 1
Title: Mrs. Rosie and the Priest
Author: Giovanni Boccaccio
Summary: Bawdy tales of pimps, cuckolds, lovers and clever women from the fourteenth-century Florentine masterpiece The Decameron.
My Thoughts: Who knew 14th century literature could be so lewd! These short stories came from the Florentine book The Decameron. Humor as one of the main points decided that I should get the complete work. It is lighthearted and good for the weary heart.
Rating: 4/5 stars
PENGUIN LITTLE BLACK CLASSICS NO. 2
Title: As kingfishers catch fire
Author: Gerard Manley Hopkins
Summary: Considered unpublishable in his lifetime, the Victorian priest’s groundbreaking, experimental verse on nature’s glory and despair.
My Thoughts: This one is just bad haiku. You tend to set a mind frame when you read something like ‘consered unpublishable in his lifetime” but I’m sorry Gerard but I think your poems are far too religious for my taste. Included in this little book are diary entries that still didn’t catch my eyes. These poems are difficult to understand and I did not enjoy them to be honest.
Rating: 2/5 stars
PENGUIN LITTLE BLACK CLASSICS NO. 3
Title: The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue
Summary: Ranging across Scandinavia, England and Ireland, a Viking-age epic of two poets in doomed pursuit of Helga the Fair.
My Thoughts: Who doesn’t like tales of princesses and warriors? This a story of Gunnlaug, a viking poet-warrior and Hrafn. He meets the most beautiful woman, Helga the Fair and asks for her hand in marriage. But of course, Helga’s father disagreed and tells Gunnlaug to come back when he’s mature. Hrafn finds out about this arrangement and steals Helga. The plot thickens at this point and ends in a fatal disaster. This is my first time reading about Scandinavian literature. I found it hard to get around too because of the torrent of names being thrown at you. It’s a good read if you’re a fan of adventures.
How It All Goes Down:The story opens up in London Library in the autumn of 1986. Sitting in the library is a postgraduate in literature, Roland Michell, poring over a dusty old book previously owned by a celebrated-poet (fictional) in the 19th century. He then finds two drafts of letter addressed to some woman. Shocked and thrilled by this discovery, he slips the drafts of letter into his own book and leaves the library and decides to seek the mystery woman.
The first part 300 pages of the book was dragging that I thought of not finishing it but eventually came to enjoy reading and loving it. The writing is eloquent and the plot is masterfully written. Being a romantic, I daresay this is one of the most remarkable book I’ve read in awhile.
“Never have I felt such a concentration of my whole being – on one object, in one place, at one time – a blessed eternity of momentariness that went on forever – it seemed.”
“I have dreamed nightly of your face and walked the streets of my daily life with the rhythms of your writing singing in my silent brain. I have called you my Muse, and so you are, or might be, a messenger from some urgent place of the spirit where essentially poetry sings and sings. I could call you with my greater truth – my Love – there, it is said – for I most certainly love you and in all ways possible to man and most fiercely. It is a love for which there is no place in this world – a love my diminished reason tells me can and will do neither of us, a love I tried to hied cunningly from, to protect you from, with all the ingenuity at my command.”
“No mere human can stand in a fire and not be consumed.”
To understand this more clearly, there are two timelines in this story, that of the nineteenth-century poets and the 20th century literary scholars, that is essentially interweaves with each other. The story between the Victorian poets fills my heart with so much passion and I too, was possessed, wanting to know more of what happened to them. As Roland and Maud, discovers the truth behind the poets, you will be slowly immersed into British, European and Scandinavian literature and storytelling.
This book is a reminder of how good it is to fall in love with books and the joy of reading. I definitely recommend this to fans of romance and the Victorian era.
“…those scenes on the beach had an aura of sadness about them that struck chords somewhere deep within me, filling my chest with pain.”
“It’s a marvelous thing, the ocean. For some reason when two people sit together looking out at it, they stop caring whether they talk or stay silent. You never get tired of watching it. And no matter how rough the waves get, you’ve never bothered by the noise the water makes or by the commotion of the surface–it never seem too loud, or too wild.”
“And it seemed to me that even if you weren’t actively letting your emotions ride its surface, the ocean will tell you on giving you something, teaching you some sort of lesson.”
“I guess when you’re out of the ocean and you see the piers way off in the distance, shrouded in mist, you understand this very clearly: No matter where you are, you’re always a bit on your own, always an outsider.”
“I get the feeling that in towns near the sea the rain falls in a more hushed, lonely way than in other places. Perhaps the ocean absorbs the sound?”