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Readers of Han Kang's English debut The Vegetarian might not be surprised to discover that her second English language translation, Human Acts, begins with a pile of bodies. Westerners are not usually familiar with the economic and political conditions which led to the Gwangju Uprising in South Korea in 1980, but the thing about the emotional truths behind human acts is that they are often disturbing, heartrending, senseless, and so very familiar. Kang seeks not to inform, but to awaken that which we instinctively recognize and draw close--the fact of our shared humanity. The various fictional voices--a student, a factory girl, a prisoner, a dead child's mother--represent the threads that bind trauma to memory and give birth to a history.
Gwangju, South Korea, 1980. In the wake of a viciously suppressed student uprising, a boy searches for his friend's corpse, a consciousness searches for its abandoned body, and a brutalised country searches for a voice. In a sequence of interconnected chapters the victims and the bereaved encounter censorship, denial, forgiveness and the echoing agony of the original trauma. Human Acts is a universal book, utterly modern and profoundly timeless. Already a controversial bestseller and award-winning book in Korea, it confirms Han Kang as a writer of immense importance.