Han Kang zegt in een interview met The Wire Review over Human Acts: ‘Humans will not hesitate to lay down their own lives to rescue a child who had fallen onto the train tracks, yet are also perpetrators of appalling violence, like in Auschwitz. The broad spectrum of humanity, which runs from the sublime to the brutal, has for me been like a difficult homework problem ever since I was a child. You could say that my books are variations on this theme of human violence. Wanting to find the root cause of why embracing the human was such a painful thing for me, I groped inside my own interior, and there I encountered Gwangju, which I had experienced indirectly in 1980.’
Een fragment uit Human Acts, een boek waarin het menselijke lichaam (zoals in De vegetariër en Wit) net zozeer het slagveld is als ‘de geschiedenis’ – de manier waarop Han Kang persoonlijke ervaringen en ‘grotere thema’s’ weet te verbinden vind ik, ik kan geen ander, minder fan-achtige (ik ben een fan van Han Kang, wie had dat ooit gedacht, ik, fan, op mijn leeftijd) formulering bedenken, verbluffend. Oh ja, het fragment:
She gasped for breath, and her eyes jerked open. She could tell from the sound that the washing machine was on its final spin cycle. After a few minutes,the swoosh of the rotating drum ceased as abruptly as a strangled breath, and a high-pitched bleep cut through the silence it had left in its wake.
Eun-sook stayed where she was. There were still three slaps that she needed to forget, and today was the turn of the fifth. The fifth slap, when she’d told herself to stop counting. The fifth slap, when it had felt as though the stinging flesh was peeling from her cheekbone, when blood had begun to seep to the surface of the skin.
She got to her feet and went to hang up the laundry, on the washing line strung above the sink. Even this task didn’t take as long as she’d hoped, and thedawn was still far away when she went back to her bedroom.
She folded the quilt with exaggerated care and put it on top of the chest of drawers, organized her desk, and arranged the drawers, and still the day remained impossibly far away. She tidied everything that could be tidied, even lining up her toiletries on the side table. Briefly, she let her hand linger on the small mirror she kept there. The world imprisoned in its glass was cold, silent, and unchanging. Gazing abstractedly into that world, the face that looked out at her was familiar, but for the bluish bruise branded on the cheek.
There’d been a time when people had been quick to tell her how “cute” she was. You’ve got such nice features, it’s like they came out of a copybook. You look like a dancer with that black hair, a salon perm would be pointless on you. But after that summer when she was eighteen, the summer of the fountain, no one said such things to her anymore. Now she was twenty-three, and loveliness was what was expected. Loveliness in the form of apple-red cheeks, of comely dimples expressing delight in life’s brilliance. Yet Eun-sook herself wanted nothing more than to speed up the aging process. She wanted this damned, dreary life not to drag on too long.
She gave the room a thorough going-over with a damp cloth, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies. But even after washing the cloth, hanging it up, and going back to sit at her desk, the nighttime stubbornly lingered. She didn’t read anything, just tried to sit there quietly, and hunger began to creep up on her. She went and filled a bowl with some of the early-ripening rice that her mother had prepared for her, then brought it back to her desk. As she silently chewed the grains of rice, it occurred to her, as it had before, that there was something shameful about eating. Gripped by this familiar shame, she thought of the dead, for whom the absence of life meant they would never be hungry again. But life still lingered on for her, with hunger still a yoke around her neck. It was that which had tormented her for the past five years—that she could still feel hunger, still salivate at the sight of food.