The Dead Don't Rest
Publisher: Dissident Voice
Date Written: 19/03/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20514
Rodgers reviews two novels by Han Kang, "The Vegetarian" and "Human Acts", and analyzes their shared themes dealing with humanity's struggle against its own most destructive qualities.
Booker Prize winner The Vegetarian (2016) chronicled a seemingly average urban middle class womans disintegration and its consequences through the eyes of three people: the salaryman husband who overlooks and disdains her, the artist brother-in-law who becomes obsessed with her as an object of aestheticized desire, and the sister who tries hopelessly to understand and protect her, even as her own sham of a family collapses under the weight of her sister's mania. As with many literary depictions of madness, the story exposes (for those who are willing to look) the appalling deficiencies in what is considered normal in contemporary life. The eponymous "unremarkable" woman, ignored or objectified by two domineering men, first tries to purge her carnivorous human identity, and then finally even any animal identity, as she seeks refuge in transforming herself into a kind of plant life.
With the second novel Human Acts, Han Kang enters more explicitly political territory. She tells the story of a historical event: the 1980 massacre of students and workers in the southern city of Gwangzu by the repressive South Korean government, headed by the military dictator Chun Doo-hwan.