Before I begin this book review, I must write, if you have not read The Vegetarian by Han Kang you really must. It is a mind trip unlike anything you have read before. It is so different and so strange that it is worth your time. It blew me away when I read it.
I write those words as an introduction for Human Acts because a similar theme is explored in this book- what makes humans human?
In The Vegetarian, a woman decides she is more plant than she is human, so throughout the book, she becomes more plantlike. Can a human become a plant?
In this book, Kang explores human nature after a military coup that leaves many dead bodies behind as history moves forward. The coup is described in the introduction of the book and it is important to read that introduction because it is a part of Korean history that may not be known to a larger audience.
The book then starts to act like a series of short stories with the connecting theme being this coup. The first is about a man who must record the unclaimed bodies. He must walk through piles and piles of bodies recording descriptions of each. Does a simple description make a person?
The second story is told from the perspective of one of those dead bodies as a soul is experiencing what it is like to be dead. Is our soul what makes us human?
I could go on, but time moves forward throughout the stories. We will visit with a woman who was once a protester to the coup, but is now stuck in a meaningless job where her workmates praise the man she was protesting with history long forgotten. Do our memories make us human?
While I did not think this was as powerful as The Vegetarian, I still loved this book. It is an extremely quick read (only about 120 pages), but it has a lot in it. There doesn't seem to be anything lost in translation, except for a few references that might not be known. I am really enjoying Kang's voice.
I gave this one 4.5 stars
Here is your Amazon link- Human Acts by Han Kang
*I want to thank Bloggingforbooks and Hogarth for the ability to read this one for free. It was given in exchange for an honest review