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The White Book


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Shortlisted for the Man Booker International 2018. A stunning meditation on the colour white; about light, about death and about ritual

About the Author

Han Kang was born in Gwangju, South Korea, and moved to Seoul at the age of ten. She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University. Her writing has won the Yi Sang Literary Prize, the Today's Young Artist Award, and the Korean Literature Novel Award. The Vegetarian, her first novel to be translated into English, was published by Portobello Books in 2015 and won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. She is also the author of Human Acts (Portobello, 2016) and The White Book (Portobello, 2017). She is based in Seoul.

Deborah Smith's translations from the Korean include two novels by Han Kang, The Vegetarian and Human Acts, and two by Bae Suah, A Greater Music and Recitation. In 2015 Deborah completed a PhD at SOAS on contemporary Korean literature and founded Tilted Axis Press. In 2016 she won the Arts Foundation Award for Literary Translation. She tweets as @londonkoreanist.


A brilliant psychogeography of grief, moving as it does between place, history and memory... Poised and never flinches from serene dignity... The White Book is a mysterious text, perhaps in part a secular prayer book... Translated seamlessly by Smith, The White Book succeeds in reflecting Han's urgent desire to transcend pain with language

Wonderful. A quietly gripping contemplation on life, death and the existential impact of those who have gone before
*Eimear McBride*

The White Book is a profound and precious thing, its language achingly intimate, each image haunting and true. It is a remarkable achievement. Han Kang is a genius
*Lisa McInerney*

There is beauty and pain in every sentence and image, made sharper by their simplicity and aching honesty
*New Internationalist*

Each [chapter] is a miniature work of art in its own right... there is a crispness to [Han's] pieces evocative of the stark luminescence of white... This is a book you want to underline and highlight every other line or word as you read, yet every time I went to make my mark, my pencil hovered over the margins - deep as drifts of pillow-white snow - as I remained reticent to taint the perfect whiteness in front of me. The White Book is a shimmering, evocative work. Smith's peerless translation captures every last tiny nuance, the resultant prose so beautiful and affecting that it stops you in your tracks
*National UAE*

A fragile work of literature
*Live Mint*

Delicate and thoughtful and concise and dense and strong; this is the kind of writing I like to read slowly

An astonishingly rendered work of fiction... Precise, subversive, fierce and deceptively opaque... A sublime expression of grief's incongruous byways, its busy inactivity, its larger, more elaborate intrusions
*Financial Times*

[Han] in her new work transgresses literary convention and examines the constellation of pain at the heart of her mother's first pregnancy... Shot through with pain and paradox [...] Kang transforms obliteration into promise. Loss and living are counterpointed, neither meaning revoked
*Arts Desk*

[An] astonishing novel... with such tenderness [that] incites us to examine our own experience and place in the world... It's a profound piece of work [...] that is as much concerned with what is unsaid and omitted, as what is revealed... Han's painful, exquisite story is a philosophical lament for all the shades of life
*Irish Times*

Incantatory... The White Book reveals Han to be an innovative author committed to formal experimentation... Intensely personal, hypnotically serene, and mournfully meditative, Han's thanatopsis reminds readers of the revivifying power of memory and the extent to which we are uniquely endowed within the natural world to withstand the vagaries of forgetfulness and life's nagging ephemerality
*Asian Review of Books*

An intensely emotional series of accounts that form an outline of losses which are invisible, but still palpably felt
*Lonesome Reader*

Evocative and beautifully laconic, this book is about belonging, grief and the sensory experience of being alive
*Book Riot*

A brilliant psychogeography
*Deborah Levy*

A tender evocation of grief and absence... Han Kang is a real artist
*Irish Times*

Formally daring, emotionally devastating and deeply political
*International New York Times*

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