The White Book by Han Kang review

Korean author Han Kang is not interested in sentimentality, but is committed to depth Buy Now “Now I will give you white things, What is white, though may yet be sullied; Only white things will I give.” These lines, one of the rare eruptions of poetry in Han Kang’s studied and astonishing novel, set out the author’s intentions: she wishes to speak to us of a particular colour, and of her character’s encounters with it. The White Book opens with a list – salt, snow, “laughing whitely” – and the character hopes that this white list will be “transformative”. That it will help her find peace, uncomplicatedness, and the whiteness of calm. Using this monochromatic map, Kang leads us through a life, one that is filled with the weight of history, and a particular bereavement. Her unnamed protagonist has moved to a “city of severe winters”, a lightless place where the days are short. Here, memory insinuates itself, insisting that she look back to the hard, rural life of her parents. To the premature sibling born before her, with “a face as white as a crescent-moon rice cake”, who died because of her early arrival and the remoteness of […]

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