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Human Acts

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4.16  ·  Rating details ·  12,214 ratings  ·  2,044 reviews
From the internationally bestselling author of The Vegetarian, a rare and astonishing (The Observer) portrait of political unrest and the universal struggle for justice.

In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed.

The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and
...more
Hardcover, 218 pages
Published January 17th 2017 by Hogarth Press (first published May 19th 2014)
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Danita L Human Acts is a 'brutally honest' book about the deaths and events that happen during an attempted student uprising. But there is no exploitation of v…moreHuman Acts is a 'brutally honest' book about the deaths and events that happen during an attempted student uprising. But there is no exploitation of violence such as we see daily in movies and even in television. And as another answered, I would highly recommend it for high school students.

Keep in mind, however, that this is not an easy read. Human Acts isn't 'difficult' to read such as Ulysses by Homer but it is challenging because it constantly assaults all of the emotional senses over and over. If a person does not physically cry when they read it, they will cry in their soul.

If a teacher was to select this book for required reading in a class room, I would expect some parents to object.(less)
Kyra One of my favourite things about this book is the different voices each chapter is told from - not just different characters - different voices: first…moreOne of my favourite things about this book is the different voices each chapter is told from - not just different characters - different voices: first person, second person and third person narration.

The beauty of the language in this writing AND translation often caused me to stop and drink in the artistry - in spite of some astoundingly brutal content being described so beautifully...(less)

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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  12,214 ratings  ·  2,044 reviews


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Sean Barrs
“I still remember the moment when my gaze fell upon the mutilated face of a young woman, her features slashed through with a bayonet. Soundlessly, and without fuss, some tender thing deep inside me broke. Something that, until then, I hadn't realised was there.”

This book is brutal and uncompromising; it begins with a flourish of blood and barbarity that is fast and unexpected. However, we only get the aftermath of such butchery. We see the devastation the event has caused, but only ever cat
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Emily May
May 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017, modern-lit
I had mixed feelings after finishing Kang's The Vegetarian, but I cannot deny that the book sucked me right into it's dark, weird allegory. Which is why I'm surprised that this book left me feeling cold and detached. It feels so distant and impersonal, lacking an atmosphere worthy of the subject matter.

Human Acts tells an important story that I'm sure many people know nothing about - that of the South Korean Gwangju Uprising in 1980. In a daring plot choice that should have been far more effecti
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Elyse  Walters
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
That's it, my next book needs to be comic... erotic...or fantasy.....or maybe a cowboy dancer story.....but -- yikes -- don't read this book before bedtime!

It's Brilliant.......but, brutal bacteria brain bankruptcy!!!!

If the book cover - alone isn't a clue that this story isn't going to eat through your skin - burn away your flesh - down to your bare bones....then by all means...dive in and find out for yourself!

Inspired writing comes from a real event. Gwangju Uprising, South Korea... 1980
"
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Amalia Gavea
''It's the middle of the day, but the dim interior is more like evening's dusky half-light. The coffins that have already been through the memorial service have been grouped neatly near the door, while at the foot of the large windows, each covered with a white cloth, lie the bodies of thirty-two people for whom no relatives have yet arrived to put them in their coffins. Next to each of their heads, a candle wedged into an empty drinks bottle flickers quietly.''

Gwangju, South Korea, 1980. Th
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Taryn
Another powerful book by Han Kang, author of The Vegetarian.

After you died I could not hold a funeral,
And so my life became a funeral.


Some historical background: After 18 years of authoritarian rule, South Korean President Park Chung-hee was assassinated on October 26, 1979. Hopes for democracy were dashed when Army Major General Chun Do-hwan seized power in a military coup on December 12, 1979. On May 17, he placed the entire country under martial law under the pretext of national sec
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Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
This book was pretty horrific in the sense of what happened to these kids and different people in the took. I won't lie, I didn't understand some of the ways the author wrote the story but I grasped it's meaning all the same.

This is about the Gwangju Uprising in South Korea in the 80's . The author tells about really brutal deaths of people and school children. This was no peaceful protest.

There are different stories in the book that intertwine together. They are all really sad in more of a sh
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Vanessa
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Human Acts was my second Han Kang book, and honestly I couldn't fault it. I rarely give out 5 star ratings, but I just couldn't find anything to dislike about this book.

Human Acts is based on real-life historical events, where Kang depicts the lives of several characters who are all connected by the events of the suppressed student uprising in Gwangju, South Korea in 1980. Each perspective travels a little further through time to show how incredibly painful and far-reaching the events of the up
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Maxwell
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, i-own-it, translated
Heartbreaking and beautiful. Between this and The Vegetarian, Han Kang has positioned herself as one of the strongest and most thought-provoking writers of our age. ...more
Nicole~
Humanity's essential barbarism is exacerbated not by the especially barbaric nature of any of the individuals involved but through that magnification which occurs naturally in crowds .

The Putrefying Bodies piled up into one massive heap, fused in a single mass like the rotting carcass of some multi-legged monster, the blood of its collective hearts surging together into one enormous artery stained the streets in a congealed pool of crimson. Throughout human history, the brutality of wars has
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Claire
Human Acts is the author Han Kang's attempt to make some kind of peace with the knowledge and images of the Gwangju massacre in South Korea in 1980. Her family had left that city just one year before when she was 10 years old, when the 10 day uprising occurred, but she became aware of it through the overheard, whispered conversations of her family and the silence that surrounded them speaking of the home where they used to live, she learned three young people from that household had lost their l ...more
Hugh
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a sombre and deeply moving book, which bears witness to the brutal suppression of an uprising that took place in 1980 in the city of Gwangju in the south of South Korea (where Han Kang was born), an event I knew nothing about.

It reminded me a little of Vasily Grossman and his account of the Ukrainian famine in Everything Flows - this book has the same unflinching attention to gruesome detail, and as such was not an ideal choice to read over Christmas, but it is a book that is haunting a
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Marjorie
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarything
Human Acts – 5 stars

A literary masterpiece about humanity

This author continues to astonish me. Her first book, “The Vegetarian”, is a totally unique work of fiction. This book, “Human Acts”, is a fictionalized account of an actual student uprising in Gwangju, South Korea in 1980. Hundreds of people (estimates run from 600 to 2,000), most of them young students, were killed during this protest. This book focuses on the death of one 15-year-old boy, Dong-ho.

Ms. Kang has a wonderful talent for brin
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lark benobi
The novel at first felt fragmentary, stuttering, hesitant, and understated, but as I read along every sentence, every thought built upon the last, until the story became not only a interwoven chronicle of wrenching human happenings, but also an examination of how humans behave toward one another; how people behave in crowds; how human beings survive trauma (or not); and how they find meaning in the aftermath of unrelenting tragedy.

There was nothing cinematic about the treatment of the Gwangju m
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Amanda
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I will read anything Han Kang writes. Her stories are haunting and powerful beyond belief. Human Acts is the story of a violently suppressed student uprising in Gwangju, South Korea in 1980. It is based on actual event which I knew nothing about. Like The Vegetarian, this not an easy story to read and it is haunting in its brutality but it is important and should definitely be read.
Edward Lorn
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of fiction based on real events and gorgeous writing
First and foremost, everyone who loves beautiful writing should read this book. That being said, results may vary. My idea of beautiful may not be your idea of beautiful. This book contains disturbing imagery described passionately. Kang finds beauty in even the ugliest places.

Human Acts is a breath of fresh air after Kang's disappointing The Vegetarian. I give every author a second chance, no matter how much I despise the first story I read from them. Sometimes, it works out in my favor. This
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Sidharth Vardhan
“I still remember the moment when my gaze fell upon the mutilated face of a young woman, her features slashed through with a bayonet. Soundlessly, and without fuss, some tender thing deep inside me broke. Something that, until then, I hadn't realised was there.”

A semi-fictional account of unnecessarily violent supression of a student uprising in Han Kang's home town, Gwangju, South Korea in 1980 through point of view of inter-related characters. I guess it would have been brutal to expec
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Supreeth
So, hundredth read of the year!
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Background:

On may 18, 1980 South Korean citizens saw an opportunity to end their non-democratized government when military government was forced. Students from Chonnam University were the first bunch of people to initiate the protest, followed by other students and people all over the town. They started robbing government offices and police stations. As a counter strike, military fired arms and killed around six hundred citizens making that uprising one
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Jill
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: translations
I'm not sure how a book can be so beautiful but at the same time rip my heart out, but this one did.

I was hesitant to read this, because the subject is disturbing and I did not love The Vegetarian, but Human Acts is breathtaking. Even though the book is translated, the rhythm and flow are beautiful!
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I enjoyed reading and discussing The Vegetarian by Han Kang, so I went looking for her other novel that had been translated into English. This one is of a completely different tone - following a handful of people during the events of the Gwangju Uprising (AKA Gwangju Massacre, depending on who is discussing it) in 1980, and its aftermath. Kang was born in Gwangju and moved away in 1979 (but she appears to live there now), so this book is inspired by the story surrounding her childhood, of people ...more
Ellie
“…if we can only keep our eyes open, if we can all hold our gazes steady, until the bitter end…”

This line appears toward the end of Han Kang’s (author of The Vegetarian) new book, Human Acts. And certainly Kang has an amazing ability to gaze steadily at painful material, as witnessed in both her books.

The pain in Human Acts is different than that of The Vegetarian. In The Vegetarian, we followed the suffering of one woman, in Human Acts, that of thousands. The book is based on the Gwangju uprisi
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Viv JM
Human Acts is a novel based on the true events of the Gwangju massacre of 1980 (which I knew nothing about before starting this book). It is told from the perspective of different people involved in the violently suppressed uprising, and centres especially around the middle school student Dong-Ho who we meet in the first chapter, when he is looking for his missing friend.

The language used in this novel is starkly beautiful and poetic, and in some ways that makes its unflinching telling of this h
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Pink
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I finished this book almost a month ago, I thought it was a solid 4 star read, not one of my favourite ever books, but still great. Since then I've often found myself remembering certain scenes and reminding myself that I read them in this book, not in another much loved classic. I think it's because this feels like something I've read before, while at the same time, it's not like anything else that I've encountered. As I found in The Vegetarian, both the writing and translation were fantas ...more
Britta Böhler
It took a bit to really get into the story but once I did, I loved it.
Book Riot Community
My favorite of January 2017 is a hard call: It’s already turning out to be a fantastic reading year, and Mustafa Khalifa’s The Shell, a story of imprisonment in Syria (Jan 2017) dovetails in startling ways with Han Kang’s novel about the 1980 Gwangju Uprising and subsequent massacre, and then the fallout over the next thirty years, traced through the bodies of different characters. Like Kang’s Man Booker International-winning The Vegetarian (also trans. Smith), this is a novel about the human bo ...more
David Yoon
The writing is beautiful and the translation assured. It follows several people in the aftermath of the Gwangju uprising and subsequent quelling by the army. The aftermath creeps across the years as dark tendrils that still lay hold of those involved.

Sounds like a compelling plot as Kang plays witness to the events of 1980. But these are all bookish quotes objectively examining this second translated work from Kang that makes The Vegetarian seem like a happy fairy tale.

But it had such a profoun
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Jill
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is it true that human beings are fundamentally cruel? Or, in the words of one of the characters in Human Acts, “To be degraded, damaged, slaughtered – is this the essential fate of humankind, one that history has confirmed as inevitable?”

It’s a dark view, but for those who survived the Gwangju Uprising of 1980, it would appear that cruelty is, indeed, part of being human. As happens all too often in history, laborers and students rose up against a dictatorship and later were arrested or massacre
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Tony
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: korean
I know a man from Gwangju. He is a gentle man, soft-spoken. I have watched him swaying a baby in his arms, tirelessly, for hours. He lives here now, in the United States; he has done well here - but he speaks with pride of South Korea.

The man from Gwangju would have still been there at the time of the Uprising, not leaving until two years later. He would have performed his obligatory military service, but that would have ended long before the rebellion of May, 1980.

I learned these sparse detail
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Aubrey
No one had ever taught me how to address a person's soul.
If one is to take the path of see no evil/hear no evil/speak no evil when it comes to the relationship between writer and writing, the consideration of bodies in conjunction with paper and pen and keyboard and the electricity of nerve signals is cut off at the root. That's fine, though. Then you don't need to think about all that must be involved when literature is a thing of capitalism, the funding for the composition and the funding
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Annelies
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So sad. I have no words, only tears...
Meike
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-read, korea
In "Human Acts" (a book recently translated into German under the title "Menschenwerk"), Han Kang writes about the Gwangju Uprising against the South Korean authoritarian regime in 1980 which ended with a military incursion and a massacre. She tries to grasp the events from the perspective of several people who experienced them, stringing together a series of short stories to create a multidimensional, both moving and disturbing panorama of what happened. Rather than choosing a documentary appro ...more
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소설가 한강

Han Kang is the daughter of novelist Han Seung-won. She was born in Kwangju and at the age of 10, moved to Suyuri (which she speaks of affectionately in her work "Greek Lessons") in Seoul.

She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University. She began her writing career when one of her poems was featured in the winter issue of the quarterly Literature and Society. She made her official liter
...more

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“Is it true that human beings are fundamentally cruel? Is the experience of cruelty the only thing we share as a species? Is the dignity that we cling to nothing but self-delusion, masking from ourselves the single truth: that each one of us is capable of being reduced to an insect, a ravening beast, a lump of meat? To be degraded, slaughtered - is this the essential of humankind, one which history has confirmed as inevitable?” 107 likes
“After you died I could not hold a funeral,
And so my life became a funeral.”
56 likes
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