Month: August 2016

Han Kang: 소년이 온다 (Human Acts)


The latest addition to my website is Han Kang‘s 소년이 온다 (Human Acts). This novel concerns the Gwangju Uprising of May 1980 against the military dictatorship of Chun Doo-hwan. Han Kang was born and brought up in Gwanju and was nine at the time of the uprising. She very skilfully describes what happened, from the point of the view of the students who opposed the uprising, telling the stories of a few individuals involved. The military reaction was ferocious and brutal and she spares us no details, giving detailed description of the wounds on the dead bodies, of the putrefying bodies stacked and finally burned by the South Korean military (this section is narrates by the spirit of one of he dead students) and of the horrifying torture of those students found with guns. We also learn of the after-effects on the those that survived, with huge psychological trauma, frequent suicides and the inability to function properly in later life. Of the main characters that we meet, several are killed, others survive but with difficulty. It is a very grim book but superbly well written and tells us in the West about a period of South Korean history, though quite recent, which many of us will know little or nothing about.

Quim Monzó: Benzina (Gasoline)


The latest addition to my website is Quim Monzó‘s Benzina (Gasoline). This is a very funny, very post-modern novel about two Catalan painters in New York. The first is Heribert Julià who, when we first meet him, is married to Helena, owner of the gallery where he exhibits. Though they are married and seem happy with one another, they have numerous relationships and do not see other all that much, even at night in bed. Heribert, however, is bored or, more particularly, detached from the world. He has to paint some paintings for a forthcoming exhibition but cannot bring himself to do so. He has a new girlfriend, Hildegarda, but is already bored with her. He does post-modernist lists – of coloured condoms, of stamps and coins he has bought in large numbers, of different kinds of glasses in a bar – but this does not help. The only things that seems to move him is following Helena as he suspects that she has a new boyfriend. This does not really bother him but he is curious to know who it is and follows her in various outrageous disguises round New York. However, with yet another new girlfriend (whose name, of course, begins with an H) he has an accident and cannot paint for the exhibition. Helena has a ready-made substitute, Humbert Herrera, an unknown artist whom she has already persuaded Heribert to help. Humbert takes Heribert’s place, even as regards following, this time trying to find and seduce Hildegarda. It is a very funny and very post-modernist novel, mocking the New York art world.

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