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I Have the Right to Destroy Myself

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  2,544 ratings  ·  359 reviews
I don't encourage murder. I have no interest in one person killing another. I only want to draw out morbid desires, imprisoned deep in the unconscious. This lust, once freed, starts growing. Their imaginations run free, and they soon discover their potential... They are waiting for someone like me.

A spectral, nameless narrator haunts the lost and wounded of big-city Seoul,
Paperback, 119 pages
Published July 2nd 2007 by Mariner Books (first published April 30th 1995)
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Average rating 3.34  · 
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 ·  2,544 ratings  ·  359 reviews

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Jul 02, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No One

But it was easy to move people back in those days, like the way Anne Frank's diary touched a nerve because of the Halocaust. But now it isn't so easy. Death has become pornographic, shown live on TV. Massacres, which used to be unearthed through rumor, are quickly reported in detail via satellite.

This book, which centers on a man who goes around finding "clients" whom he then helps commit suicide, is not as interesting or as revolutionary as I thought it would be.

For one thing,
Jan 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Ruzz
Recommended to Brad by: Randomanthony
Shelves: to-read-again
Wow! I had no idea what I was getting into when I started reading I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, but I loved it.

It is a novella about life and living, told from the perspective a man who brings suicide to "clients" he meets, leading them to an end they are happy with and fulfilled by. But it's also a novel about the lives of people who are content to keep living even if they're incapable of loving.

Mostly, though, it's a story about living most at the moment of death.

And that is what Young-
Dec 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: art majors
Shelves: own, favorites
Looking over other people's reviews, I'm kind of annoyed. People point out that it is quite disturbing, graphic, and often unpleasant. And cite that as a reason for it being bad. This kind of thinking is shallow and stupid. Yes, it's not about puppies. Not everything is about puppies, guys.

It was a good book. It all tied together very nicely (though it was a little confusing for a second), and had some very insightful lines/moments. This book is translated from Korean, so I wonder if anything w
Dec 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'm willing to make the four star leap on this one, although I might change my mind after a re-read. I Have The Right To Destroy Myself reads like a Bergman film. In other words, it's slow, meditative, doesn't bother tying up every loose end, and sometimes leaves the reader working hard to create meaning.

The storyline/narrator involves a man who gets paid to advise people on how to best commit suicide. However, that angle never gets overplayed, as it might in the hand of a lesser writer, and You
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
The author, painfully self-aware yet vacuous (like a high-school goth reading Rilke) almost screams in your ear, "I'm sophisticated, see? I'm writing about French art and suicide...that's what sophisticated authors write about...just ask everybody!"

There seems to be a matrix or rubric against which he measured the manuscript giving the same inauthentic feel as a foreign movie the director of which borrowed too literally from a popular movie from the States or England.

"Oh, look, everyone is weari
K. Elizabeth
Nov 21, 2018 rated it liked it
3 / 5

I don’t encourage murder. I have no interest in one person killing another. I only want to draw out morbid desires, imprisoned deep in the unconscious. This lust, once freed, starts growing. Their imaginations runs free, and they soon discover their potential … They are waiting for someone like me.

What a disturbingly interesting novel — I can’t think of a better way to sum up my thoughts. I literally flew through this one in a couple hours (it’s 120 pages, so it’s not impressive, lol), a
Aug 24, 2008 rated it did not like it
I like nitty-gritty. I like dark and rough, but (unfortunately) I also like well-written plots and characters to have shards of realism.

One of the good points is that the book is short; the author knew his limits. So, thank you, Mr. Kim.

However, there are some key problems, especially the women characters. Now, I might have passed this off as a cultural difference, but since the book is so heavily influenced by the U.S., I can't let it slide.

First off, we have "Judith", the insane, emo chick wh
Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
Such is a shame. This undernourished story is intriguing, though only a germ of a novel. Given my effusive lust for Korean cinema, I was excited to find Young-Ha Kim's debut on a remainder table for two dollars. What resulted is actually more akin to a screenplay than any plumbing of the darkened corridors of the mind. The suicide assistant would be a perfect role for Lee Byung-hun: shit, he's played variations on the role a number of times. That said, this clumsy collision of art, death and enn ...more
Oct 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: g_fiction_genl
The first half read like Asian fetish porn, the second half like a nausea-inducing conversation between two undergrads about The Meaning of Art. But, you know, it had some finer moments. And I'll never look at Chupa Chups the same way again.
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
An interesting premise, with a subpar execution. It feels like the author was trying too hard, but nor the narrative nor the characters ever really get any depth, rendering an unsatisfying reading experience.
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
The nameless narrator of I Have the Right to Destroy Myself has an unusual job. He seeks out people - or lets them come to him - who need help, who are in a rough spot, who contain within them the germ of death but who need just a bit of help getting there. His clients kill themselves, and his kind of therapy helps them do it. He's no murderer - in that he has never killed anyone himself, he's never passed over the bottle of pills or slit any wrists - but he's there, with them, in their final ho ...more
Helen (Helena/Nell)
Jul 05, 2009 rated it liked it
So far as I’m concerned the front-cover blurb from Han Ong bore no relation whatsoever to the book I read:

"Tense, elemental, tangy, Kim’s keen engagement with human perversity yields an abundance of thrills as well as chills (and for good measure, a couple of memorable laughs).”

I’ll reconsider that. It was tense.

Early on, it created an expectation in me that it didn’t fulfil. The first chapter introduces a nameless narrator who is fascinated by death. It transpires that his mission in life is t
Sep 29, 2020 added it
Shelves: korean-fiction
Small, elegant, and cruel, this is the sort of book I treasure. I am trying to write a small, elegant, and cruel book myself (hey there, publishers!). I don't know if this fulfilled all my goals, but it has a beauty to it, its sense of Korean melancholy (hey kids, let's learn about hwabyeong), although let's face it, the bad sex is badly rendered. If you've never been to Seoul, you might imagine a wonderland of video screens with BTS dancing across. That's kind of true. But it's also a city of g ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A bit weird but it's a short, quick read. Don't think many will like this though.
I picked this book on the basis of its title. Big mistake! It's one of those artsy-fartsy novels with no plot. All the characters did was have sex and kill themselves. This was just breathtakingly awful. I'm glad it was short.
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I Have the Right to Destroy Myself [1996] – ★★★★

Kim Young-Ha is a South Korean author and this is his debut novel, which was first translated into English in 2007. The book is set in Seoul and deals with rather dark and uncomfortable issues. Death is a prominent theme of this little book, and, even though it delivers a curious read, it is also rather shocking and racy at times, so giving a warning is justified. In the story, our unnamed narrator helps his clients to commit a suicide, and we als
Nibra Tee
Jun 02, 2014 rated it liked it
What I enjoyed about this book is that the author did not do much to particularly underscore his culture, thus resulting into a kind of all-inclusive story bare of any measured identity. It has an air of universality about it, perhaps because its theme is of a concept irrefragable as sunlight to us all.

This book calls to mind Simon Axler, a character from Philip Roth's The Humbling, who has ultimately succeeded in staging what he had always intended to do, but to which he always had miserably f
Jim Elkins
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: korean
A New Form of Belatedness

An interesting example of cultural dislocation. the book is about young twenty-something men and women in Korea and in Europe, drifting from place to place, having sex, exchanging more or less nihilistic and random thoughts. One of them spends his time arranging for people to kill themselves. In all of that, and in the author's age (was born in 1968; this was written in 1996) this book owes something to Bret Easton Ellis and other writers of the 1980s (Ellis was born in
Apr 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Perplexing. I was a little confused by the characters, and the fact that this was translated kind of made me wonder what their original names were C and K given those names because they can sound the same but look different (with K being more...harsh in comparison to the curved, simple C)? Or is that just me reading too much into it. Because there seemed to be an awareness of English in the book, since people were referenced as swearing in English and it was alluded to that only book ...more
Dec 22, 2008 rated it liked it
I saw this on RA's to-read list so I decided to copy him. It looks intriguing, and I've not read much from Korea that's contemporary anyway. And I love the title. Not to mention the cover art.
Not as good as I'd hoped...I was thinking it might be like the strange, disturbing worlds Natsuo Kirino creates in each of her novels. The novel was (is) promising but failed to draw me in to the extent I wanted to be. I felt stranded on the cool surface, not able to go much deeper into the cold
Apr 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
Short, Sexy and Suicidal--Like Peoples’ names, Book Titles matter a lot to me because they’re the easiest preludes in getting to know stories and how potentially good or bad they are. Whenever I go paperback-hunting, I’m always on a furious lookout for intriguing, bizarre titles whereas I could easily dispose generic-sounding ones for latter consideration. (Read: I can be such a book-snob sometimes.)

Imagine then, how thrilled I was to find Kim Young Ha’s novel entitled ‘I have the right to destr
Dec 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
I own this, an autographed copy (Mr. Kim crossed out his name on the title page, then rewrote it again... in English haha whaa?~), and read it about a year ago. After I put it down, there was a strange feeling in the back of my jaw.

At first the book seemed to me like a poor imitation of Haruki Murakami, but without the heart, and more loose ends and despairing people. It felt contrived. There were so many affected tangents about French art (yes, we are going to make an obvious allusion to the D
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
everything was dark, man, dark. social isolation in the big city, the usual sort of thing. reminded me a little of a wong kar wai film but much darker, the writing reminded me of banana yoshimoto without her (relative) cheerfulness. You could accuse me of comparing him to other East Asian artists because he's also East Asian, but then some parts of this reminded me of the 2011 film Shame, again, the whole isolation can't-connect-to-others in the big city sort of thing (except that movie took it ...more
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Three times now. I have typed a couple of sentences and deleted. Where to begin with this book.
It didn’t take long to finish it. Too short. I have been deceived before by authors writing short novels. The same novels which hold an astounding power to affect the reader. Camus, for instance. I still can’t see clearly all the things the author has put before me but some things were noted. The description of various paintings, a ‘river that exists’ between some people that can’t be crossed no matte
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I knew this novel was going to uncover the themes of death and suicide, but I was quite surprised by the author's flair in capturing the sense of death for the characters as something both romantic and mysteriously desirous. That somehow, we are urged by this desire to destroy ourselves in order to uncover something that seems unreachable, far, far away...and that in itself is beautiful.

This novel isn't about the acceptance of death and suicide, but the underlying notions of what it means to be
Hoda Marmar
Jan 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: e-book
3 stars because part one was amazing. Afterwards, it was disappointing. It plateaued and then it picked up a bit. There were a couple of quotable beautiful passages. But the dynamics of the relationships between C and K, and both of them with Judith and Mimi were kind of forced and at times senseless. Overall, this was an ok read. If the book had been longer, I might have stopped reading it or skimmed through til the end.
I will give Kim Young Ha another chance sometime later.
Jessica Connelly
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it
A strange, disturbing but interesting read. I liked that it went into the relationship between death and art and the glorification of death in art but a lot of it unsettled me. There was a lot of sexual overtones which probably didn't help. Quick but weird read.
Jason Brown (Toastx2)
Jun 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
I have read books about serial killers, mass murderers, sexual sadists, and freaks. I have never run across a book about someone who assists others commit suicide. Kim Young-Ha’s ‘I have the right to destroy myself’ was a twisted new diversion in my reading. hooray for south korean fiction!

every person has at least one moment in their lifetime when the think to themselves that they would be better off dead. it is not a matter of depression, hopelessness, nor rejection; instead, suicide is the lo
Regina Lindsey
Mar 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
I don't even know where to begin on rating this. It was by far the weirdest and most disturbing book I've ever read.

A nameless narrator helps people commit suicide not because they are ill or life is awful, but because they are bored. He scours the streets of Seoul looking for women who look bored with life and teaches them ways to kill themselves. The men in the book are never named. In addition to the nameless narrator there are two other men only known as C and K. They are brothers who have b
May 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Starts out intriguing, then goes downhill from there. Still, it shows that Kim has a lot more potential than I gave him credit for after reading "Your Republic Is Calling You." This novel is a lot more focused and heart-felt, and the translator did a much better job of making the dialog feel natural. Oddly, it feels more like a French novel than a Korean has that depressing, artsy, disconnected, minimalistic, vaguely erotic atmosphere that I associate with French cinema. Unfortunately, ...more
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Young-ha Kim was born in Hwacheon. He moved from place to place as a child, since his father was in the military. As a child, he suffered from gas poisoning from coal gas and lost memory before ten. He was educated at Yonsei University in Seoul, majoring business administration, but he didn't show much interest in it. Instead he focused on writing stories. Kim, after graduating from Yonsei Univers ...more

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