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The Guest

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  181 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Based on actual events, The Guest is a profound portrait of a divided people haunted by a painful past, and a generation's search for reconciliation.
During the Korean War, Hwanghae Province in North Korea was the setting of a gruesome fifty-two day massacre. In an act of collective amnesia the atrocities were attributed to American military, but in truth they resulted from
ebook, 368 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by Seven Stories Press (first published January 1st 2005)
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Many times, after a kill, the young men stand together in a circle to pray together.
Every so often I run across a book I have to give full marks to because of how pitch perfect the author is in everything they do. It has a lot to do with how aware the book is of itself in terms of content, and context, and the writer writing in an effort beyond literary prizes or commercial deadlines or seeing how far they can push the rape/gore/abuse porn button with the audiences who will always lap those "j
There's this fundamental discord present in Korean media. On the one hand, they send their hyperactive pop music all over Asia, and the fashion exported with it is all lace and frills. Their soap operas, again played all over Asia, are stories of eternal romance, weepy-eyed heroines underneath wax snowflakes.

Then consider that this is a country split right down the middle, flattened twice in a row after a period of truly brutal Japanese colonial rule, which then underwent the shock of several na
In Korea, the term ‘the guest’ refers to Smallpox, a western disease that wiped out many hundreds of people across the nation. The local shaman would preform a ritual to exorcise ‘the guest’ by going through twelve rounds that cross between the boundaries of the dead and the living.

The Guest in this novel is not smallpox, but two other foreign intruders – Christianity and Marxism. According to Hwang Sok-Yong, the people in North Korea typically blame the Americans for the horrific atrocities tha
This book is very detailed and it takes a while to engage,
especially if you don't have some background on what happened
in North Korea during the war. It also blends reality with fantasy
in a fluid and sometimes ambiguous way. It's a very powerful story
that shows how people in the same community can be driven to tear
each other apart based solely on ideology. Highly recommended,
but not a quick, easy read by any means.
Nov 25, 2010 Psychopu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite
The Guest isn't an easy book, especially for those who are not very familiar with recent Korean history. Even to those who are familiar with it, it will be a challenging read, as it contains an uncommon overview on the history of Korea. The novel is divided into twelve chapters, that correspond to ritual steps of an exorcism, the stages of a trip towards purification that both the living and the dead exposed to the same historical events are bound to complete in order to free themselves from the ...more
Many will not like this book and will abandon it early. It makes much more sense if you know a little bit about Korea and Korean culture. It is a book about fanaticism, brutality, and killing. It centers on a war within a war (the Korean War) and murder, killing and torture by 'Christians' and 'communists.' It is a nuanced book and you need to know that Shamanism is still a force to be reckoned with in Korea. It also shows the passionate, emotional, vindictive side of Korean culture. Westerners ...more
Jun 04, 2016 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Literally haunting. If you have visited Shinchon, where the very real atrocities fictionalised in The Guest took place, the novel is especially so. While the exact details of what exactly happened on this sleepy agricultural plain - who did what and to whom- are disputed, it was no doubt horrific. Hwang's novel gives a plausible description of how communities, families, and individuals turned on each other amid chaos and war.

There are some small factual errors about North Korea throughout the b
Mar 06, 2013 Catarina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a difficult book to read because of the subject matter, but provides insight into the Korean War that many of us don't know about.
Feb 06, 2013 Kayla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a moving story of the pain caused in a war by both sides, and how it escalates beyond sides into senseless killing to try and release the built-up anger.
Feb 10, 2017 Kit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first look at how the Korean War began on a personal level; what it meant in small towns, among friends and within families. I did not know the role Christianity played in the division of factions, and found that interesting. As always, when confronted with the supernatural, I have to work a bit to suspend disbelief.
John Collings
Jul 27, 2016 John Collings rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a profound look at forgiveness and understanding as took through the eyes of an Korean presbyter who, after thirty year, travels back to his home town in North Korea for the first time since he was forced to escape from the atrocities of the Korean War. Yosop is given the opportunity to visit his home country under the guidance of the North Korean government and tries to convince his brother, Yohan, to go with him. His brother does not want to go because the sins he had committed du ...more
Jun 03, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Guest is a ghost story in the same way that Beloved is: an embodied past appears to challenge those in the present. In the wake of his brother's unexpected death, the aging Rev. Ryu Yosop takes the journey his brother had previously planned: he travels from the U.S. to his birthplace in North Korea. The ghost of his brother accompanies him; long-dead former friends and neighbors come and go.

Hwang presents a striking portrait of contemporary North Korea (about which he knows more than most o
Dec 31, 2014 Eleanor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
An amazing and thought provoking read. Hwang examines the way the Korean War is portrayed and utilised as a political tool. Combined with a 'neutral' diaspora perspective of the events during the war, the reader gets a chance to consider the events outside of a National history (ie. that of North or South Korea). It was a really thought provoking and touching read. I really enjoyed the style and I thought the translation was excellent.

** spoiler **
For those interested, I recently watched a film
Barry Welsh
Aug 19, 2014 Barry Welsh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Please join the 10 Magazine Book Club for our September meeting on Saturday 27th September. We will be joined by very special guest novelist Hwang Sok-yong, legendary author of several award winning & bestselling books including 'The Shadow of Arms', 'The Old Garden', 'The Guest' & 'The Road to Sampo.'

텐매거진 북클럽의 9월 모임에 초대합니다. 날짜는 9월 27일 토요일입니다. 이번 모임은 '무기의 그늘', '오래된 정원', '손님', '삼포 가는 길' 등의 베스트셀러 작품들로 다양한 문학상을 수상하신 전설적인 소설가 황석영 작가님과 함께합니다. www.faceb
Hala Alzghoul
May 29, 2013 Hala Alzghoul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful way to portrait history and politics in an amazing well-written novel. Even though in some of the pages I had to go back and read it all over again to make sure I’m still on the right track with the characters and sequence of the story .in the end of all the chapters and pages it turns out that there weren’t any good and bad side just a big misunderstanding. In addition, in the end of it all everyone came out with his or her own ideology. The books entire philosophy can be explained ...more
Ravishankar Srinivasan
What an absolutely haunting and beautiful book! The translation is first class and the quotes from the bible and the narrator's musings moved me to tears. We tend to associate evil with names like Satan, Lucifer etc but the real evil is within us and it is ignorance, hatred, selfishness and a lack of mercy that causes evil

Profoundly moving book and one that makes you evaluate what is it that makes us human. Highly recommended for anyone to read and a must read of K-Lit fans
Jan 05, 2015 Kelsi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-university
Being all about war, killing and sad history, 'The Guest' is not something I usually reach for. I found the read rather trying at parts and also incredibly upsetting at others. However it was an eye-opener to the reality of what life was like for Koreans during this tough time. It reminded me a lot of Nazi Germany, except even more horrifying given that the Koreans were slaughtering their own people
Nov 14, 2014 Meg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ho particolarmente apprezzato l'oggettività dell'autore nella narrazione della storia recente del suo paese e dei crimini perpetrati: non una cosa da poco.

A parte questo, la narrazione è molto scorrevole e il linguaggio è semplice.
A quanto pare, la struttura del libro si ispira a un rito sciamanico per scacciare il vaiolo (o, "L'Ospite"), come veniva chiamato nei villaggi contadini coreani. Un aneddoto interessante. :)
Rebekah H.
I'm still not sure how to rate this one. It was beautifully written, but eye-blistering in its raw harshness. Still, it was a truly worthwhile read for anyone interested in more recent Korean history, the Korean War, East-West relations, and North-South Korean relations.
I'll have to ponder it longer, I think.
C. Adam Volle
This is a textbook example of a bravely moral novel, even if it is occasionally dry or needlessly confusing.

Here's an interesting set of blog posts about how the translators may lose some of the subtlety in Hwang's prose:
Aug 13, 2008 Christine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I actually put this book down and didn't finish it. I rarely do that, but I just couldn't get into it. The only interesting parts to me were the main character's observations of the tone of the current North Korean regime. The rest of the book was boooooring.
Sally rated it really liked it
Jul 02, 2013
Virginie rated it it was amazing
Aug 10, 2016
Pouneh rated it it was ok
Apr 12, 2013
b rated it it was amazing
Jul 28, 2014
Ottilie rated it really liked it
Apr 14, 2013
For the Chronicle.
Richard Cho
Richard Cho rated it really liked it
Apr 20, 2015
Stujallen allen
Stujallen allen rated it really liked it
Sep 06, 2010
Nat rated it it was ok
Jun 11, 2013
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소설가 황석영

He was born in Hsinking (today Changchun), Manchukuo, during the period of Japanese rule. His family returned to Korea after liberation in 1945. He later obtained a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Dongguk University(동국대학교).
In 1964 he was jailed for political reasons and met labor activists. Upon his release he worked at a cigarette factory and at several construction sites around the c
More about Hwang Sok-yong...

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“There is an old saying that goes 'Start by plucking a hair, end by killing a man'. It is also said, 'Two hands must meet to make a sound'. The atrocities that happened here weren't carried out by strangers - it was us, the people who'd once lived together harmoniously in the same village."
"They say it was the superstitious freaks who did it."
"No, it was Satan who did it."
"Come now, what sort of a ghost is that?"
Ryu Yosop replied, "It is the black thing that lives in the heart of every man.”
“As it turns out, the atrocities we suffered were committed by none other than ourselves, and the inner sense of guilt and fear sparked by this incident helped form the roots of the frantic hatred that thrives to this day. (2007: 9)” 0 likes
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