흰
한강 소설. 결코 더럽혀지지 않는, 절대로 더럽혀질 수가 없는 어떤 흰 것에 관한 이야기이다. 작가로부터 불려나온 흰 것의 목록은 총 65개의 이야기로 파생되어 '나'와 '그녀'와 '모든 흰'이라는 세 개의 부 아래 스미어 있다. 한 권의 소설이지만 때론 65편의 시가 실린 한 권의 시집으로 읽힘에 손색이 없는 것이 각 소제목 아래 각각의 이야기들이 그 자체로 밀도 있는 완성도를 자랑하기 때문이다. "익숙하고도 지독한 친구 같은 편두통"에 시달리는 '나'가 있다. 나에게는 죽은 제 어머니가 스물세 살에 낳았다 태어난 지 두 시간 만에 죽었다는 '언니'의 사연이 있다. 지난봄 누군가 나에게 물었다. "당신이 어릴 때, 슬픔과 가까워지는 어떤 경험을 했느냐고." 그 순간 나는 그 죽음을 떠올린다. "어린 짐승들 중에서도 가장 무력한 짐승. 달떡처럼 희고 어여뻤던 아기. 그이가 죽은 자리에 내가 태어나 자랐다는 이야기."나는 지구 반대편의 오래된 한 도시로 옮겨온 뒤에도 자꾸만 떠오르는 오래된 기억들에 사로잡힌다. 그러다 우연히 1945년 봄 미군항공기가 촬영한 이 도시의 영상을 보게 된다. "유럽에서 유일하게 나치에 저항하여 봉기를 일으켰던 도시, 가능한 모든 수단을 동원해 깨끗이, 본보기로서 쓸어버리라는 히틀러의 명령 아래" 완벽하게 무너지고 부서졌던 도시, 그후 칠십 년이 지나 재건된 도시 곳곳을 걸으면서 나는 처음 "그 사람-이 도시와 비슷한 어떤 사람-의 얼굴을 곰곰이 생각"하기에 이르른다.

Details

Title
Author
LanguageKorean
ReleaseMay 25th, 2016
Publisher난다
ISBN-139788954640718
Rating
GenrePoetry, Fiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Cultural, Asia, Literature, Asian Literature, Novels, Short Stories, Biography Memoir

Review

  • Bookdragon Sean
    January 1, 1970
    Music is often associated with memory. I often hear a song and I’m taken back to a time, to a place, to a person, to an experience that I never will be able to regain: to a moment that song embodies that will forever be lost in the endless river of life. For Han Kang the colour white has a similar effect; it mashes open the floodgates to her mind and drops torrents of memory over the body of her writing. "Why do old memories constantly drift to the surface?" Because they never leave us. Because Music is often associated with memory. I often hear a song and I’m taken back to a time, to a place, to a person, to an experience that I never will be able to regain: to a moment that song embodies that will forever be lost in the endless river of life. For Han Kang the colour white has a similar effect; it mashes open the floodgates to her mind and drops torrents of memory over the body of her writing. "Why do old memories constantly drift to the surface?" Because they never leave us. Because they never stop defining who we are and shaping our paths. Han Kang is haunted by her past, by her memories and by her dreams of the dead. There is a certain sense of guilt, of sorrow, that permeates her own life, a life that exists when another did not. This hangs over the writing, and the author’s conscience, forever digging outwards from the back of her mind: it’s a blazing reminder, one she endures with every step. “This life only needed one of us to live it. If you had lived beyond those first few hours, I would not be living now. My life means yours is impossible. Only in the gap between darkness and light, only in that blue-tinged breach, do we manage to make out each other’s faces."Such a thing questions the very nature of writing itself. What’s it for? Is it to entertain? Is it to tell a story? Is it to communicate a thought, a dream, an idea, or can it have another purpose?It can be cleansing; it can be cathartic and it can even be a means of finding oneself. By exploring such a simple idea as a colour, a colour that embodies much to the writer, it allows her to explore the dark recesses of her mind and come to terms with emotions and experiences that have hung over her for a lifetime.The White Book is a powerful evocation of human spirit, of human pain and suffering, but it’s also a book about learning to live with our daemons and our darkest experiences; it’s a book about life, and it’s also a book about death: it’s a book about the small amount of stark whiteness that separates the two.
    more
  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    I am quite unsure how to review this brilliant little book. I think it is something that needs to be experienced rather than read about. Told in a series of very short musings on different white things, Han Kang circles her own grief and Warsaw’s scarred history in a way that I found absolutely moving. I read the book mostly in one sitting (it is very short) and can only recommend doing that. This way the interplay between the blank spaces on the page, the photography, and the writing worked to I am quite unsure how to review this brilliant little book. I think it is something that needs to be experienced rather than read about. Told in a series of very short musings on different white things, Han Kang circles her own grief and Warsaw’s scarred history in a way that I found absolutely moving. I read the book mostly in one sitting (it is very short) and can only recommend doing that. This way the interplay between the blank spaces on the page, the photography, and the writing worked to create an immersive experience.Han Kang’s writing is economical; there is not a spare word to be found. It gives the impression of deep concentration and thoughtfulness which worked extremely well for this book. Another way to describe her prose would be elegant and precise. I loved this. I find there to be something fascinating in being able to write about personal trauma in this way – rather than it reading clinical it made the book all the more profound for me.I have recently read Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, which much in the same way deals with a colour (blue). But the two books are radically different besides their obvious similarities. Nelson’s writing is a lot more visceral and blunt, whereas Han Kang creates the illusion of distance while being obviously affected. I am very glad to have read of those these in short succession.There is now only one book of hers left that has been translated to English and I haven’t read. I am a huge fan of Han Kang’s writing.You can find this review and other thoughts on books on my blog.
    more
  • Hugh
    January 1, 1970
    A short and intensely personal and poetic meditation but a very difficult one to encapsulate in a review.The starting point is a simple list of white things but the book is haunted by many darker undertones. I am not sure how much I understood but it felt profoundly human, spare and elegant, every word charged.This is my second book from the Man Booker International longlist (I had already read Die, My Love and bought this one before it was announced).
    more
  • Bianca
    January 1, 1970
    Hmm ...I don't know what to make of this book.It's elegant, in a minimalist, subdued kind of way. The font size is minuscule, there's a lot of white space and empty pages.There are some nice passages, but also a whole lot of simple, simplistic, and "I don't get the point" kind of writing - writing for the sake of writing, or better said, I was reading it and not getting much out of it, despite wanting to. I don't know - it's one of those "concept books". You definitely have to be in the right ki Hmm ...I don't know what to make of this book.It's elegant, in a minimalist, subdued kind of way. The font size is minuscule, there's a lot of white space and empty pages.There are some nice passages, but also a whole lot of simple, simplistic, and "I don't get the point" kind of writing - writing for the sake of writing, or better said, I was reading it and not getting much out of it, despite wanting to. I don't know - it's one of those "concept books". You definitely have to be in the right kind of mood/frame of mind to appreciate it.Or maybe not. It's not terrible. I wouldn't call it great either. It's probably one of those books you give more value to because of who the writer is. Probably. I don't really know...
    more
  • Paul Fulcher
    January 1, 1970
    Now shortlisted for the Man Booker International - and alongside Flights, one of the two outstanding remaining books:"제발 죽지마. 한 시간쯤 더 흘러 아기는 죽었다. 죽은 아기를 가슴에 품고 모로 누워 그 몸이 점점 싸늘해지는 걸 견뎠다. 더이상 눈물이 흐르지 않았다.""For God's sake don't die. Around an hour later, the baby was dead. They lay there on the kitchen floor, my mother on her side with the dead baby clutched to her chest, feeling the cold gradually enter into the flesh, sinking through to the bone. No more crying. " Chapter 5 of 한강 (Han Kang's) qu Now shortlisted for the Man Booker International - and alongside Flights, one of the two outstanding remaining books:"제발 죽지마. 한 시간쯤 더 흘러 아기는 죽었다. 죽은 아기를 가슴에 품고 모로 누워 그 몸이 점점 싸늘해지는 걸 견뎠다. 더이상 눈물이 흐르지 않았다.""For God's sake don't die. Around an hour later, the baby was dead. They lay there on the kitchen floor, my mother on her side with the dead baby clutched to her chest, feeling the cold gradually enter into the flesh, sinking through to the bone. No more crying. " Chapter 5 of 한강 (Han Kang's) quite brilliant Human Acts, as per Deborah Smith's English translation, concludes with the words:Don’t die. Just don’t die. She explained at the time:through writing the life of torture survivor Lim Seon-ju, I again experienced things which it seems that, as a woman like her, I did not want to have to bear. And so, at first this chapter had the tone of observing Seon-ju from more of a distance, one night in August 2002. I then realised that this was because I had been trying to distance myself from her, and so I rewrote the whole chapter from the beginning. I struggled to write precisely her feeling of being unable to press the button of the dictaphone. And I wrote the final sentence of the chapter, ‘please don’t die’, in Seon-ju’s voice. Don’t die; that was something I wanted to say to her, to all the living, to us.Later 한강 realised that these words were also sub-consciously influenced by a story her mother had told her, one she retells here:My mother's first child died, I was told, less than two hours into life. I was told that she was a girl, with a face as white as a crescent-moon rice cake. Though she was very small, two months premature, her features were clearly defined. I can never forget, my mother told me, the moment she opened her two black eyes and turned them towards my face.At the time, my parents were living in an isolated house, in the countryside near the primary school where my father taught. My mother's due date was still far off, so she was completely unprepared when, one morning, her waters broke. There was no one around. The village's sole telephone was in a tiny shop by the bus stop – twenty minutes away. My father wouldn't be back from work for another six hours. It was early winter, the first frost of the year. My twenty-two-year-old mother crawled into the kitchen and boiled some water to sterilise a pair of scissors. Fumbling in her sewing box, she found some white cloth that would do for a newborn's gown.The White Book is her beautifully poignant tribute to her 언니, her eonni, the elder sister she never had, the little girl with the face of a 달떡 (crescent-moon rice cake), with her two black eyes, dressed in the white gown that was used to swaddle her and later, after her two brief hours of life, served as her funeral shroud.'White as a moon-shaped rice cake' never made much sense until, at six, I was old enough to help out with making the rice cakes for Chuseok, forming the dough into small crescent moons. Before being steamed, those bright white shapes of rice dough are a thing so lovely they do not seem of this world. Only afterwards, dished up on a plate with a pine-needle garnish, did they become disappointingly matter-of-fact. Glistening with roasted sesame oil, their colour and texture transformed by heat and steam, they were tasty, of course, but utterly unlike their former loveliness.So when my mother said 'white as rice cake', I realised, she meant a rice cake before it is steamed. A face as startlingly pristine as that. These thoughts made my chest grow tight, as though compressed with an iron weight.한강 started the book on an extended visit to Warsaw (as an aside, she finished it in my home county of Norfolk) - although Warsaw is referred to only as 'the city' in the book - and another key inspiration was aerial footage she saw of the city, footage shot in Spring 1945 by an American plane:The city seen from far above appeared as though mantled with snow. A grey-white sheet of snow or ice on which a light dusting of soot had settled, sullying it with dappled stains. But as the plane gets lowe, the snow is revealed as the ashes of the burnt and almost entirely destroyed city. Visiting Warsaw some 70 years later, she realises:The fortresses of the old quarter, the splending palace, the lakeside villa on the outskirts where royalty once summered - all are fakes. They are all new things, painstakingly reconstructed based on photographs, pictures, maps. Where a pillar or perhaps the lowest part of a wall happens to have survived, it has been incorporated into the new structure. The boundaries which separate old from new, the seams bearing witness to destruction, lie conspicuously exposed.It was on that day, as I walked through the park, that she first came into my mind.A person who has met the same fate as that city. The White Book was published as 흰 in Korean, one of two Korean words for white, the other 하얀. As the author explained in an interview:The Korean title of this book is the single-syllable hwin (흰). If hayan (하얀) indicates the white as an ordinary colour, in hwin there might be a certain sadness, the colour of fate. The white of this book’s title is a fundamental colour passing from a baby’s swaddling cloths to a shroud, through the white of salt and snow and frost and waves, the wings of a living butterfly and the wings of the same creature, grown transparent in death.The White Book is both a fictional novel and, in the author's words, "could be read as narrative poem in 65 fragments" each focused around something that is white - a newborn's gown, salt, snow, ice, blank paper, fog (that vast, soundless undulation between this world and the next, each cold water molecule formed of drenched black darkness) etc.[NB there are some similarities in concept to [book:Bluets|6798263] by Maggie Nelson, but while Nelson's work is more erudite - an essay based on blue - 한강's book is more poetic, moving, heartbreaking.]The first section 나 (I) tells, all in this same format of brief prose poems, how the author came to write the book, but in the longest and 2nd section, 그녀 (her), she writes as if her sister had lived and was in the city instead of her: As I have imagined her, she walks this city’s streets.. At a reading I attended, the author explained how she wanted to "lend her body" to the characters in Human Acts and to "lend her life" to her sister here. And in the last section 모든 흰 (All Whiteness) the narration return to the 1st person, as she addresses her sister:I wanted to show you clean things. Before brutality, sadness, despair, filth, pain, clean things that were only for you, clean things above all. But it didn't come off like that. Again and again I peered into your eyes, as though searching for form in a deep, black mirror.And there is also a nod to the events described in Human Acts when, seeing wreaths laid in the city she is visiting, the narrator thought of certain instances in her own country’s history, the country that she had left to come here, of the dead that had been insufficiently mournedAs for the translation, there has been some controversy around Deborah Smith's work, on The Vegetarian in particular. Frankly, some of the commentary has missed the point entirely, as what ultimately matters is the end result, the work that is presented to the English reader, and there only two things need be said:1) The author works has a very close relationship with her translator, and is clearly delighted with the result.(although see http://m.yna.co.kr/amp/kr/contents/?c... for her take in the Korean press - she clearly was a little disappointed with the factual mistakes in The Vegetarian - and much happier with the translations of the later books, plus see acknowledges herself that translation does mean the need to produce a different work)2) As a reader, too, the resulting is truly wonderful.Smith does have to wrestle with some untranslatable puns - e.g. the Korean riddle 개는 개인데 짖지 않는 개는? (What is a dog that's a dog but doesn't bark), that gives the English answer 'fog' (which at least rhymes), the Korean playing on Korean 안개 (fog) / (안 개 not dog). And the Korean near homonyms for elder sister and front teeth (언니, 아랫니). If I had to make one small point, there is a passage written in the 3rd person where the narrator suddenly refers to 'our mother' - the Korean collective 우리의 would be much more natural here (see http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20171...) but rather jars in English.The English edition is also illustrated with some beautiful photos of performance art 한강 did around the time of the Korean book's launch, e.g. making a small baby dress from gauze, making for a truly beautiful, powerful and moving work of art.Sources: https://www.hankangwhitebook.com/light/ http://www.thewhitereview.org/feature... https://frieze.com/article/ideal-syll... and a verbal discussion between the author and her English publisher, Max Porter, which I was fortunate enough to attend.
    more
  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    In the spring, when I decided to write about white things the first thing I did was to make a list. Swaddling bands. Newborn gown. Salt. Snow. Ice. Moon. Rice. Waves. Yulan. White bird. “Laughing Whitely”. Blank paper. White dog. White hair. Shroud. With each item I wrote down, a ripple of agitation ran through me. I felt that yes, I needed to write this book, and that the process of writing it would be transformative, would itself transform, into something like white ointment applied to a swel In the spring, when I decided to write about white things the first thing I did was to make a list. Swaddling bands. Newborn gown. Salt. Snow. Ice. Moon. Rice. Waves. Yulan. White bird. “Laughing Whitely”. Blank paper. White dog. White hair. Shroud. With each item I wrote down, a ripple of agitation ran through me. I felt that yes, I needed to write this book, and that the process of writing it would be transformative, would itself transform, into something like white ointment applied to a swelling, like gauze laid over a wound …… I step recklessly into time I have not yet lived, into this book I have not yet written Now (and not surprisingly) shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize. This book was started by Han Kang during a period living in Warsaw (not identified in this book as such) – a period which enabled her to reflect on a story she had known (and had been part of her identity) all her life: that her mother’s first child died .. less than two hours into life. Walking Warsaw, after seeing a film of it obliterated in 1945 she realises that In this City there is nothing that has existed for more than severnty years. The fortresses of the old quarter, the splending palace, the lakeside villa on the outskirts where royalty once summered - all are fakes. They are all new things, painstakingly reconstructed based on photographs, pictures, maps. Where a pillar or perhaps the lowest part of a wall happens to have survived, it has been incorporated into the new structure. The boundaries which separate old from new, the seams bearing witness to destruction, lie conspicuously exposed. And that further reminds her of her sister A person who has met the same fate as that city. Who had at one time died or been destroyed and the way in which her own life is somehow bound with the life her sister would have lived had she survived and is in some ways built on the broken pediment of the sister’s life – in the same ways Warsaw is built on the ruin of its former self. This causes her embark on an journey of the imagination I think of her coming here instead of me. To this curiously familiar City whose death and life resemble her own.That journey, this book, consists of 60+ titled but unnumbered short chapters – each a reflection on a white coloured object, including those in the list above which opens the book.The book itself is beautifully presented – with (performance) artistic black and (mainly) white photos, and with acres of blanks pages and white space. These features serve to further enhance and place focus on the meditative quality of the prose poems which make up the text.Overall a moving and beautiful book from a wonderful author, brilliantly and sensitively translated by Deborah Smith (winner with Han Kang of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize) and founder of Tilted Axis Press.
    more
  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    It’s been thrilling to see the recent high acclaim and popularity for Han Kang’s powerful distinctive writing. She won the Man Booker International Prize in 2016 for “The Vegetarian” and her novel “Human Acts” is one of the most devastating portrayals of the victims and survivors of mass warfare that I’ve read. Even though she’s been publishing fiction in her native South Korea since 1995, Kang’s writing has only recently been made widely available to a Western audience through Deborah Smith’s e It’s been thrilling to see the recent high acclaim and popularity for Han Kang’s powerful distinctive writing. She won the Man Booker International Prize in 2016 for “The Vegetarian” and her novel “Human Acts” is one of the most devastating portrayals of the victims and survivors of mass warfare that I’ve read. Even though she’s been publishing fiction in her native South Korea since 1995, Kang’s writing has only recently been made widely available to a Western audience through Deborah Smith’s excellent translations. It feels exciting that there is such a large back catalogue which might still yet make it into English translation. “The White Book” is another fascinating new book by Han Kang that is uniquely different from those other two English translations, but encompasses some similar themes and familiar inflections of feeling. It could be classified somewhere between a novel, poetry and a memoir. It’s more like an artistic exercise to self consciously meditate on a colour by making a list of white things and then exploring the deeply personal memories and connections surrounding these objects. The result is an intensely emotional series of accounts that form an outline of losses which are invisible, but still palpably felt in the author’s life – especially that of Kang’s sister who was born prematurely and died shortly after her birth. Read my full review of The White Book by Han Kang on LonesomeReader
    more
  • Kamil
    January 1, 1970
    Han Kang and Deborah Smith are a match made in heaven. I feel its genius every time I finish reading any of Kang's books in Smith's translation. This one is a very special to me. The City she refers to in White Book, is my hometown, Warsaw. The book at its core is a meditation on grief. Kang juxtaposes City surrounded by neverending grief after thousands of its inhabitants were killed during Warsaw uprising and herself grieving after a sister, who died two hours after birth.Kang has been said to Han Kang and Deborah Smith are a match made in heaven. I feel its genius every time I finish reading any of Kang's books in Smith's translation. This one is a very special to me. The City she refers to in White Book, is my hometown, Warsaw. The book at its core is a meditation on grief. Kang juxtaposes City surrounded by neverending grief after thousands of its inhabitants were killed during Warsaw uprising and herself grieving after a sister, who died two hours after birth.Kang has been said to create "death-affirming" novels, this one is nothing else. In short, poetic, magical passages, meditating on various white themed items, the narrator goes through the internal journey of grief. It is a subtle, yet very visual, accompanied by photographs, memoir on loss.
    more
  • Neil
    January 1, 1970
    This book is sublimely beautiful and heart-breaking. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried when I read these words:"If you can come to us now, then do. Slip on those clothes that the fire has borne to you, like slipping on a pair of a wings. Drink it like medicine or tea, our silence, dissolving into smoke in place of words."Written like that, with no context, you may wonder why the outpouring of emotion. But this is a meditation on the death of the (unnamed) narrator’s baby sister, born before This book is sublimely beautiful and heart-breaking. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried when I read these words:"If you can come to us now, then do. Slip on those clothes that the fire has borne to you, like slipping on a pair of a wings. Drink it like medicine or tea, our silence, dissolving into smoke in place of words."Written like that, with no context, you may wonder why the outpouring of emotion. But this is a meditation on the death of the (unnamed) narrator’s baby sister, born before the narrator but who only lived for 2 hours. You will understand the context of the words above when you read the book. And if you appreciate beautiful literature, you surely should read this.The book opens with a list of white things:"In the spring, when I decided to write about white things the first thing I did was to make a list.Swaddling bands. Newborn gown. Salt. Snow. Ice. Moon. Rice. Waves. Yulan. White bird. “Laughing Whitely”. Blank paper. White dog. White hair. Shroud. With each item I wrote down, a ripple of agitation ran through me. I felt that yes, I needed to write this book…"This is followed by a series of very short chapters each of which is centred on a white object, including all those listed above.The author wrote this book whilst on a writer’s residency in Warsaw, although the city is never named in the book. At one point, she walks around a building that was destroyed in a WWII air raid and then rebuilt to incorporate a pillar that survived from the original building. This brings the realisation that her sister’s presence in her life is like that pillar - it is part of her life, her history. She wonders if she can write about her sister’s death and somehow bring her new life.The writing is incredibly poetic. It is a short novel and there is not a wasted word. Sentences like this, when reflecting on a white pebble are beautiful:"If silence could be condensed into the smallest, most solid object, this is how it would feel, she thought."A moving and beautiful book.
    more
  • میعاد
    January 1, 1970
    كتاب خاصى بود كه هنوز نميدونم دوستش داشتم يا نه، ولى "گياهخوار" هان كانگ چيز ديگهای بود كتاب خاصى بود كه هنوز نميدونم دوستش داشتم يا نه، ولى "گياهخوار" هان كانگ چيز ديگه‌ای بود
    more
  • Viv JM
    January 1, 1970
    It is very difficult to describe this book! It is a series of short meditations/poetry themed around the colour white, with a thread of grief running through. The translation reads seamlessly, and the whole effect is beautiful and haunting.
  • Natalie (weneedhunny)
    January 1, 1970
    The White Book has often been described to me as ‘musings on the color white’, resembling Maggie Nelson’s “Bluets” in the way it bends and defines genres. Somewhere between essays, flash-fiction, and poetry in form; with contents of both personal and beautiful nature. The White Book opens with a list of white things, and goes on from there to become short passages on one white thing to another, expanding on what the color resembles and mirrors, as well as what it symbolizes and what meaning we g The White Book has often been described to me as ‘musings on the color white’, resembling Maggie Nelson’s “Bluets” in the way it bends and defines genres. Somewhere between essays, flash-fiction, and poetry in form; with contents of both personal and beautiful nature. The White Book opens with a list of white things, and goes on from there to become short passages on one white thing to another, expanding on what the color resembles and mirrors, as well as what it symbolizes and what meaning we give it in our world. In traditional Korean funerals, white is the color of mourning. I think the connection to this tradition has very much been the intention – the book’s focus on and design of being white, seems to hint to just this theme of death, mourning, and rebirth.Full Review: https://weneedhunny.wordpress.com/201...
    more
  • Callum McAllister
    January 1, 1970
    The comparisons to Maggie Nelson's Bluets will be pretty inevitable and unsurprising but here it is: this reminded me of Bluets. Although, that's only in terms of its form. It's a novel (?) written in fragments and unified thematically by meditation on the colour white. While I read it as a novel, and not a memoir or a book of poems, it plays with that cross-pollination of genre. Some reviews have taken the details of Han Kang's life to take it as red that this is very much a memoir, but using d The comparisons to Maggie Nelson's Bluets will be pretty inevitable and unsurprising but here it is: this reminded me of Bluets. Although, that's only in terms of its form. It's a novel (?) written in fragments and unified thematically by meditation on the colour white. While I read it as a novel, and not a memoir or a book of poems, it plays with that cross-pollination of genre. Some reviews have taken the details of Han Kang's life to take it as red that this is very much a memoir, but using details from your life does not a memoir make. Nor does fragmentary use of prose make it poetry. But it's certainly similar to prose poetry, in a way. This was dreadfully sad and deeply moving in a way that I didn't get in the Vegetarian, which I liked but didn't love. I think that there's something about this book that is more distilled and pure. The use of objects in order to explore grief and memory, the conversations with the narrator and her dead sister, just simply appeal to me more. Loneliness, grief, motherhood, art, the human soul. Those themes are the business. I don't know what else to say about this book except it's clear to me that Han Kang is a genius.
    more
  • Rebecca Foster
    January 1, 1970
    A series of short, poetic meditations on the color white. The narrator is haunted by the story of her mother’s first child, a daughter who came early and died within two hours because of their winter isolation. “I was told that she was a girl, with a face as white as a crescent-moon rice cake.” Ever since, she’s felt the weight of obligation, as if she has to live a doubly significant life to make up for her older sister’s being snatched away. Snow, ashes, pebbles, butterflies, the moon: the the A series of short, poetic meditations on the color white. The narrator is haunted by the story of her mother’s first child, a daughter who came early and died within two hours because of their winter isolation. “I was told that she was a girl, with a face as white as a crescent-moon rice cake.” Ever since, she’s felt the weight of obligation, as if she has to live a doubly significant life to make up for her older sister’s being snatched away. Snow, ashes, pebbles, butterflies, the moon: the thematic chapters are often only one paragraph, sometimes just a few lines, about the cold clarity of things that are white. The narration alternates between the first and the third person, and there are occasional photographs interspersed. What with the mixed media and the hybrid form, this is a strikingly different sort of book, but I found that all its lyrical language simply washed over me and never left much of an impression.
    more
  • Laurent
    January 1, 1970
    Aangrijpende poëtische mijmeringen over de dood en verlies. Vorm en inhoud zijn één met een bestendig zo goed als lege bladspiegel en veel witte bladzijden: de hoofdstukjes bestaan uit enkele paragrafen en een nieuw hoofdstukje start telkens op de rechterbladzijde. De mooie beelden sporen wel aan om ander werk van Kang te gaan lezen. Heel jammer dat deze vertaling op de Engelse vertaling is gebaseerd (en niet op het origineel) en dat de foto's uit de Koreaanse editie hier niet zijn opgenomen. De Aangrijpende poëtische mijmeringen over de dood en verlies. Vorm en inhoud zijn één met een bestendig zo goed als lege bladspiegel en veel witte bladzijden: de hoofdstukjes bestaan uit enkele paragrafen en een nieuw hoofdstukje start telkens op de rechterbladzijde. De mooie beelden sporen wel aan om ander werk van Kang te gaan lezen. Heel jammer dat deze vertaling op de Engelse vertaling is gebaseerd (en niet op het origineel) en dat de foto's uit de Koreaanse editie hier niet zijn opgenomen. De Engelse editie heeft nochtans ook foto's (zij het nog andere). Nergens wordt hier een verklaring voor gegeven. Schande, Nijgh & Van Ditmar!
    more
  • Marianne Søiland
    January 1, 1970
    Annerledes shortstories med fargen hvit som gjennomgangstema.Omtale på bloggen min her:https://ebokhyllami.blogspot.ca/2018/...
  • Karen Mace
    January 1, 1970
    Having loved The Vegetarian, I knew I needed to read this and finally got my mitts on it recently! And what a reading experience it was once more! Who knew that the subject of such simple white things - lace curtains, sugar cubes, rice, clouds... to name but a few, could conjure up such powerful images when written about so wonderfully by this author!It covers a wide range of emotions and topics that captures the spectrum from life to death, feelings, humanity and more. I found it to be such a c Having loved The Vegetarian, I knew I needed to read this and finally got my mitts on it recently! And what a reading experience it was once more! Who knew that the subject of such simple white things - lace curtains, sugar cubes, rice, clouds... to name but a few, could conjure up such powerful images when written about so wonderfully by this author!It covers a wide range of emotions and topics that captures the spectrum from life to death, feelings, humanity and more. I found it to be such a calming book to read and it really didn't take long to read either. There was so much beauty in everyday things that are always taken for granted and it really makes you think and appreciate the tiniest of details.Stunning!
    more
  • Debbie Kinsey
    January 1, 1970
    Han Kang’s previous novels that have been translated into English have this way of not looking at their central character or message too directly, and she circles around them, showing you different perspectives on them. This novel/non-fiction/poetry/whatever short book does do that, but also feels much more direct and personal than her other work. It’s also more experimental, so probably won’t be for everyone, but I loved it. It’s a fragmented meditation on the colour white, without a clear narr Han Kang’s previous novels that have been translated into English have this way of not looking at their central character or message too directly, and she circles around them, showing you different perspectives on them. This novel/non-fiction/poetry/whatever short book does do that, but also feels much more direct and personal than her other work. It’s also more experimental, so probably won’t be for everyone, but I loved it. It’s a fragmented meditation on the colour white, without a clear narrative, but the thread is the death of Kang’s older sister hours after she was born. White is the colour of mourning in South Korea. Kang’s mother had told her that if her sister had lived, she wouldn’t have had more children, so Kang would never have been born, and there’s also a thread of Kang living in her sister’s place, and the complicated emotions her death then brings her. Throughout the book are some black and white photos from an art performance by Kang in which she ‘lent her body’ to her sister and interacted with white things. There are also ties to the violence and memoralising (or lack of) in relation to place, specifically South Korea and Warsaw, where she was living while writing the book. It’s something you could read very quickly, but it’s best read slowly, pausing at the blank white pages.
    more
  • Inderjit Sanghera
    January 1, 1970
    A meditation on the colour white; mellifluous and meandering, ‘The White Book’ is an exquisite jewel box of a book whose iridescence shimmers with a gossamer-web of whiteness of limitless shades; from the gentle fall of snow to the soundless flap of a butterflies wing to the glaring violent whiteness of electric lights, ‘The White Book’ is about the beauty and whimsy of whiteness;“On nights when the moon is unusually large, she can leave the curtains open and let its light flood every inch of he A meditation on the colour white; mellifluous and meandering, ‘The White Book’ is an exquisite jewel box of a book whose iridescence shimmers with a gossamer-web of whiteness of limitless shades; from the gentle fall of snow to the soundless flap of a butterflies wing to the glaring violent whiteness of electric lights, ‘The White Book’ is about the beauty and whimsy of whiteness;“On nights when the moon is unusually large, she can leave the curtains open and let its light flood every inch of her flat. She can pace, then, up and down. In the light filtering out of a huge, white, pondering face, the darkness soaking out of two black eyes.” There is an opacity about the prose style, a kind of translucence which resembles the colour the book is ruminating on. Kang explores the vitality in the colour white in defining not only how we perceive the world, but how we perceive ourselves; from the gentleness of white laughter to the whiteness of the mother’s milk as she nourishes her dying baby, white is an essential part of the human experience, however it is not solely confined to the light, but also to darkness, in both negating it and enhancing it, beautifying it, coalescing with it; quite often the difference between light and dark can solely lie in a simple shade of white;“Raising her eye to the afternoon sky as she walked, a black that the homeland only knew at night her mind turned to the thoughts of nebulae. To the thousands of stars like grains of salt whose light had streamed down to her, those nights at her parents’ countryside home. Clean, cold light that had bathed her eyes, scouring her mind of all memory.”Not only this, but Kang explores the hallucinatory nature of whiteness, its tendency to transmogrify and transform the world, a world both as heavy as fog and as light as clouds, a world of boundless imagination and beauty. Kang brings out the innate sensuousness of whiteness; few writers have ever had a colour as their central character and fewer character still have been able to evoke to colour their novel with as much variation and originality as Kang does in ‘The White Book.
    more
  • Jonathan Pool
    January 1, 1970
    I've rarely waited so long after reading a book to post my review. I know this author is deservedly acclaimed on the strength of her back catalogue. The White Book has been universally praised by those whose opinions I respect. Why does the book leave me a bit cold, and certainly not as moved as I was after reading Human Acts?I realise that the white packaging, the ivory paper, the sparseness of the prose is conveying a message of its own. Places and people are nameless. This is a story about d I've rarely waited so long after reading a book to post my review. I know this author is deservedly acclaimed on the strength of her back catalogue. The White Book has been universally praised by those whose opinions I respect. Why does the book leave me a bit cold, and certainly not as moved as I was after reading Human Acts?I realise that the white packaging, the ivory paper, the sparseness of the prose is conveying a message of its own. Places and people are nameless. This is a story about death, sadness, morbid reflection. The colour of the morgue is white. I think its because while there are universal elements of even personal grief, the story of a young death is so personal that I find it hard to take my own experiences of 'wrong' death and conflate that emotion with another persons. This is the one element of my life that I dont share.When I heard Deborah Smith, the most excellent translator (into English) of Han Kang's work, read aloud in Korean and English, at the MBI 2018 readings, I finally drew some comfort from the book. Deborah's reading in Korean was wonderful. The resonance of the words, the fragility, was moving. I didn't need or want to understand the words being spoken.Dissecting this too closely seems inappropriate, but Deborah Smith confirmed that Han Kang's own family (this is a biographical 'novel') had not originally been aware of the work, though 'at least one' of them has now read The White Book, and they have visited the Kang exhibition in Seoul some of whose photographs adorn the book.Its truly amazing to think that Deborah Smith is only 31 years old, and that The Vegetarian was the first book she had ever read in the Korean native languageI think The White Book will elicit a variety of different reactions in the same reader depending on how recently grief has affected that reader.
    more
  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    5/5starsHan Kang does it again. My copy is highlighted to a point that I think less of the book is blank than marked. This was beautiful.
  • Jim Elkins
    January 1, 1970
    Problems Putting Performance Art Stills into a NovelThis is a brief book with a number of blank pages and seven photographs. The narrator thinks about a sister she never knew (the sister died the day she was born). The narrator imagines her sister by thinking about white objects (snow, lace, paper, ice). The prose poems average about a half-page each, so the book is full of white spaces. Two different comments: first on the book's images, then on its narrative.1. The imagesTerry Pitts has writte Problems Putting Performance Art Stills into a NovelThis is a brief book with a number of blank pages and seven photographs. The narrator thinks about a sister she never knew (the sister died the day she was born). The narrator imagines her sister by thinking about white objects (snow, lace, paper, ice). The prose poems average about a half-page each, so the book is full of white spaces. Two different comments: first on the book's images, then on its narrative.1. The imagesTerry Pitts has written a review of the book on his blog "Vertigo." He contributes some interesting information about the book's images:"In The White Book, the seven black-and-white images, plus the one on the cover, each show a woman in a room that appears to be completely white. These haunting images are from a performance that Han Kang did, which was filmed by Choi Jin-hyuk and exhibited at a gallery space in Seoul after the publication of the Korean edition of The White Book (흰 Hŭin or The Elegy of Whiteness). In several images she is holding objects that are white or presenting them to the camera for the reader to view. In others, we see only her silhouetted shape bending or in movement.... Perhaps the images and text seem so integrated because Choi Jin-hyuk’s photographs reiterate what we read in the text and do so at the same heightened aesthetic level of Han Kang’s text.... Curiously, the original Korean edition used different images by a different photographer, Cha Mi-hye, whose color photographs depicted “sparse frames of snowfields, water and sunlight,” according to the Korean Herald." (On sebald.wordpress.com; search "Han Kang's 'The White Book'.")I haven't seen the original yet, and I'll amend this review when I have. However I'm not as positive as Pitts is regarding the images chosen for the English translation. Readers aren't told they're from a performance done after the Korean edition was published, but it's clear they're stills from an art performance. I find them unexceptional: I have seen many, many photographs of performers in white cubes kneeling and looking at white objects. The fact that they're clearly artifacts of the artworld is at odds with the narrative and the narrator's life, which has little to do with the artworld. Readers are perhaps supposed to overlook the performance-art feel of the photos: but how is that possible?The images are also problematic because they're not connected very closely to the narrative, and it's not clear why they aren't. The narrative is mainly very imagistic, and the images, as it were, don't keep up: they're generic. They're grey, as Pitts notes, partly because of the exigencies of publishing, but largely because they are indifferent as photographs: they could have been much more carefully done. As it is, they're anemic, unfocused on the narrative, and too conventional. It would have been better to have carefully composed and printed photographs that closely respond the often brittle and icy images in the text. The effect of the entire is precious and largely artificial. (See Adam Mars-Jones's excellent review, "Leaves Sprouting on Her Body," in London Review of Books, April 5, 2018. Mars-Jones puts "the White Book" in context of Han Kang's two previous--and more powerful--books, "The Vegetarian" and "Human Acts.")2. The narrativeThe narrator has moved out of Korea and is living in a European city which had been bombed in WWII. (It was a curious decision not to name the city, which can only be Warsaw: Han Kang must have been imagining Korean readers for whom the details of WWII might be a bit hazy.) She is haunted by the memory of a baby sister who had died. Midway through the book she imagines the sister as living, and describes some of her experiences. At the end of the book the narrator abandons that conceit and returns to the fact that her sister did not survive. (A note about the pronouns: I'm assuming the narrator is a woman, because the author is; but I don't think there's anything in the English translation to unambiguously determine the narrator's gender, and it doesn't matter for the story. I also don't know if the Korean original makes the narrator's gender clear. If a reader can clear this up, I'll modify these notes.)For this structure to work, it would be necessary to continuously acknowledge that the sister's experiences are actually the narrator's, and that she's just imagining what her sister's life might have been. Han Kang loses track of this. Some passages that come shortly after the narrator decides to imagine her life are abstract, imagistic, or general enough so that it's possible to see them as the narrator's frail attempts to imagine a person she's never seen. But then come pages with very specific stories, which are clearly the narrator's own, but attributed to her sister (p. 89). That wouldn't be an issue if it weren't for the fact that the author apparently does not expect us to think that the narrator actually had these experiences. The narrative voice is also unstable in ways that the author does not control when it comes to the pages that recount what actually happened to her sister. The principal pages (pp. 125-6) are really very affecting, much more so than the surrounding pages. There is a sudden drop from the traumatic realism of pp. 125-6 to the following pages, which return to the book's usual meditations on ice, lace, snow, and other white things. (Some of these are well observed, and I appreciate that they are intended to have a purity and emptiness that mirror the narrator's mourning; but the majority come across rather empty and textureless.) Han Kang could have made the prose poems into reflections on the narrator's incapacity to understand, or think too directly, about the day his sister died. Or he could have introduced passages of equal emotional strength into the prose poems. As it is, "The White Book" reads as an incomplete act of mourning: the narrator is haunted by things she knows, or imagines, about her sister's death, and those things really are terribly: but the best way she knows to respond is by writing thinly textured imagistic prose poems about white objects. And last: there's a very strange page, p. 137, on which we're told that after her sister died, her mother had a son, who also died on the day he was born. When I came to that page I assumed the narrator had withheld that information because it was more traumatic than the death of her sister. But it's apparently the opposite, because her brother isn't mented again. The narrator first says that if he hadn't been born, her mother would have died by suicide. But then the second paragraph on the page tells us that if her sister had lived, the narrator might not have. That doesn't follow, and doesn't even make sense: it seems the narrator wants to say that either her sister lived, or she did, one or the other: the equation is poetic, but it isn't reasonable and it contradicts what's said in the paragraph just before. The page is undigested: it may have been Han Kang's intention to create a poetic balance between the narrator's life and her sister's, but it is not at all clear why she needed to introduce the second baby's death, or why she thought the either/or equation makes sense. I can't guess, because I am not given any further information: and so, from that page to the end, I am especially unhappy to be taken back into the world of anemic imagistic poems about white objects. If this were a student work I would have recommended another year of writing, in order to let the intense pathos of the few pages on the sister's death, and the sudden unmediated mention of the brother's death, seep into the range of experiments in describing white objects -- an exercise that is nearly as conventional and artificial as the performance art piece that the book implicitly documents.
    more
  • Femke Zwiep
    January 1, 1970
    ik heb echt het gevoel dat er iets belangrijks in de vertaling verloren is gegaan
  • Marc Nash
    January 1, 1970
    A fragile thing of beauty. Gossamer light. Not brittle by any means, but slight all the same, oh so slight, which is why I gave it 4 stars rather than the full complement as with her previous 2 books. Size may not be everything, but it does count for something. Impressions, images, metaphors inspired by the colour white. Clouds, snow, white yulan flowers, the white fur of a dog, swaddling cloth and cere sheets/ burial shrouds, especially when the swaddling cloth is converted into a cere sheet fo A fragile thing of beauty. Gossamer light. Not brittle by any means, but slight all the same, oh so slight, which is why I gave it 4 stars rather than the full complement as with her previous 2 books. Size may not be everything, but it does count for something. Impressions, images, metaphors inspired by the colour white. Clouds, snow, white yulan flowers, the white fur of a dog, swaddling cloth and cere sheets/ burial shrouds, especially when the swaddling cloth is converted into a cere sheet for a baby that dies after just two hours of birth that permeates the whole book. The white of baby milk, expressed for the first time only after the premature born baby has died, so again barren whiteness associated with death. Death is normally associated with the colour black, or rather the absence of colour that is black. Here death is marked by whiteness, allowing for some hope of shoots of new life. Think the yin yang symbol where the white has a dot of black in its midst, while the black contains a dot of white and you have the essence of this book - white as "rejuvenation, revivification... Because white flowers have to do with life? Or with death? She'd read somewhere that the words 'blank' and 'blanc', 'black' and even 'flame' literally 'fire flower' in Korean, all have the same root in Indo-European languages".The lyricism was sumptuous, but slight. An appetiser rather than a feast.
    more
  • Krista
    January 1, 1970
    Now I will give you white things,What is white though may yet be sullied;Only white things will I give.No longer will I questionWhether I should give this life to you. I was gobsmacked by the first two books I read by Han Kang – the dreamy and moving The Vegetarian, the forcefully illuminating Human Acts – and I savoured what those two works taught to me of South Korean society. By contrast, The White Book is something totally different: In the blurb, this is described as “both the most autobio Now I will give you white things,What is white though may yet be sullied;Only white things will I give.No longer will I questionWhether I should give this life to you. I was gobsmacked by the first two books I read by Han Kang – the dreamy and moving The Vegetarian, the forcefully illuminating Human Acts – and I savoured what those two works taught to me of South Korean society. By contrast, The White Book is something totally different: In the blurb, this is described as “both the most autobiographical and the most experimental book to date from South Korean master Han Kang”, and experimental is the key word there. In look and feel and ethos, this is a poetic art project, and as with all art, the consumer's response is highly personal and idiosyncratic. All this to say: Although every published review I found declares The White Book a masterpiece, it didn't do much for me; and while I am prepared to admit that the failings of taste are my own, I do claim them as my own. This life only needed one of us to live it. If you had lived beyond those first few hours, I would not be living now. My life means yours is impossible. Only in the gap between darkness and light, only in that blue-tinged breach, do we manage to make out each other’s faces. Just 160 pages, The White Book can be read in less than an hour because it includes many blank pages, whole “chapters” that are just a paragraph long, and interspersed black and white photos (of what turns out to have been a piece of performance art by the author). In my edition, the paper is heavy, smooth, and purest white; a pleasure to hold and handle. The “narrative” is divided into three sections. In the first, “I”, we learn that the narrator is on a writer's retreat in an unfamiliar foreign city (apparently based on Kang's experience in Warsaw) and she is put in mind of the story her mother told her of having given birth to her first child, alone and prematurely in their remote mountain home, and how she handsewed a gown and swaddling wraps for the baby as she lay on the tiled kitchen floor; clothes that became the baby's funeral shroud as she only lived for two hours. Walking around Warsaw and learning that every building had needed to be rebuilt after WWII, the narrator notes that like these replacement buildings, she would not be around had that first daughter survived; that every stone or pillar that had been repurposed in the city's rebuild are like those parts of herself that she feels were left over from the long gone first daughter. She feels inspired by a list of white things – snow, salt, rice – and decides to reimagine events from her life as though they had been lived by this older sister. This first section was lovely and touching; I thought I knew what I was in for.The second (and longest) section is called “She”, and the POV shifts to the second person. This is a series of vignettes that expand on the inspirational list of white things – sugar cubes in paper twists while out for tea with her aunt, the frightening flashing silver of an anchovy shoal while out fishing with an uncle who would die too young, musing on the expression “laughing whitely” which she reckons only exists in her mother tongue – and while a few may seem like poems:SandAnd she frequently forgot,That her body (all our bodies) is a house of sand.That it had shattered and is shattering still.Slipping stubbornly through fingers. Many others are just brief musings:Breath-cloudOn cold mornings, that first white cloud of escaping breath is proof that we are living. Proof of our bodies’ warmth. Cold air rushes into dark lungs, soaks up the heat of our body and is exhaled as perceptible form, white flecked with grey. Our lives’ miraculous diffusion, out into the empty air.That each of these brief entries is all that is to be found across three whole pages (a blank facing and following each) appears to be a part of their intended visual impact. I found this section to be interesting, but not especially meaningful to me. I saw differently when I looked with your eyes. I walked differently when I walked with your body. I wanted to show you clean things. Before brutality, sadness, despair, filth, pain, clean things that were only for you, clean things above all. But it didn't come off as I intended. Again and again I peered into your eyes, as though searching for form in a deep, black mirror. The third, shortest, section is “All Whiteness”, and with a return to the first person POV, the narrator focuses on the domestic: imagining what it would have been like growing up with an onni (older sister), performing funerary rites for their dead mother with her younger brother (who also would never have been born if their two older siblings had survived), tying her own son into the story, determining to keep the onni alive on the white page. And, again, none of this was particularly meaningful to me. The series of photographs end with Kang sitting with bowed head before the white baby garment she has been crafting and has hung on a blank wall, and while I respect the solemnity of the intent, I didn't connect to this as an exploration of grief as others apparently have: can you truly grieve for someone who died long before you were born? Again, I will allow that my skepticism reflects nothing more than the state of my own prunish heart, but again, I claim that as my own.
    more
  • Loranne Davelaar
    January 1, 1970
    Dit was... intrigerend? Mooi om te lezen hoe rouw in alles zit, in dit in de kleur wit. En leuk dat ik nu de uitdrukking 'wit lachen' ken die alleen in het Koreaans (? - 'haar moedertaal') bestaat: 'iemand die gedwongen lachte omdat hij in tweestrijd verkeerde'; 'iemand die moeite had iets van zichzelf prijs te geven'.
    more
  • Claire Reads Books
    January 1, 1970
    Wow – just stunning ✨
  • Lydia
    January 1, 1970
    I love Han Kang’s writing and this was no exception. Meditations on the colour white, but also of death, of life, of breath, of rebirth were captured in short pieces of flash fiction. Some of which really took my breath away and some of which, unfortunately, I think, due to the nature of the text, were a little more forgettable. This is perhaps one of her more hopeful works. Kang writes a lot about violence and human violence and incidental violence but this feels more tender, more fleeting, mor I love Han Kang’s writing and this was no exception. Meditations on the colour white, but also of death, of life, of breath, of rebirth were captured in short pieces of flash fiction. Some of which really took my breath away and some of which, unfortunately, I think, due to the nature of the text, were a little more forgettable. This is perhaps one of her more hopeful works. Kang writes a lot about violence and human violence and incidental violence but this feels more tender, more fleeting, more quiet. Snow, salt, sea spray, a baby as small as a rice cake. Fog, cold breath in the morning, snowflakes melting on coat sleeves, all on painfully white pages. I wish more of it stuck with me, but I love her language still.
    more
  • Kirra
    January 1, 1970
    Beautiful, sad and touching with all the grace of honest words and stark pages. The White Book by Han Kang (author of Man Booker International Prize winner, The Vegetarian) is the latest book to be translated into English. When I saw this beautiful book and read about how it was a really experimental and autobiographical piece of work I had to have it. The pages show photos and art from her own view as well as honest short pieces of writing about objects or past moments of her life. It's a fanta Beautiful, sad and touching with all the grace of honest words and stark pages. The White Book by Han Kang (author of Man Booker International Prize winner, The Vegetarian) is the latest book to be translated into English. When I saw this beautiful book and read about how it was a really experimental and autobiographical piece of work I had to have it. The pages show photos and art from her own view as well as honest short pieces of writing about objects or past moments of her life. It's a fantastic little read and impactful with emotion.(Thank you to Allen & Unwin for a copy of this book in exchange for review.)
    more
  • Roxana Toloza Chacón
    January 1, 1970
    3.5This was a heartbreaking and powerful read, but the second part was, in my opinion, not as well constructed and accomplished. I see where the author was going with it, but it didn't feel as strong as the first and third sections.
Write a review