Taking advantage of the white on the page, this sparse experimental novel on the color white is reminiscent of Maggie Nelson's Bluets in its gorgeous, mournful meditations. Best known in the English-speaking world for her extraordinary The Vegetarian and Human Acts, Han Kang's newest work recalls her past theme of the tensions between violence and nonviolence in ways that always feel deeply personal — even while the intimate remains invisibly tethered to the traumas of broader political and cultural wounds. No one writes with quite the same beauty. Recommended By Cosima C., Powells.com
Spare, observant, beautiful. The White Book is a profound meditation on the presence in our lives that an acutely felt absence can hold. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
From Man Booker Prize winner and literary phenomenon Han Kang, a lyrical and disquieting exploration of personal grief, written through the prism of the color white
While on a writer’s residency, a nameless narrator wanders the twin white worlds of the blank page and snowy Warsaw. The White Book becomes a meditation on the color white, as well as a fictional journey inspired by an older sister who died in her mother’s arms, a few hours old. The narrator grapples with the tragedy that has haunted her family, an event she colors in stark white — breast milk, swaddling bands, the baby’s rice-cake-colored skin — and, from there, visits all that glows in her memory: from a white dog to sugar cubes.
As the writer reckons with the enormity of her sister’s death, Han Kang’s trademark frank and chilling prose is softened by retrospection, introspection, and a deep sense of resilience and love. The White Book — ultimately a letter from Kang to her sister — offers powerful philosophy and personal psychology on the tenacity and fragility of the human spirit and our attempts to graft new life from the ashes of destruction.
“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
“Wonderful. A quietly gripping contemplation on life, death, and the existential impact of those who have gone before.” Eimear McBride
About the Author
HAN KANG was born in 1970 in South Korea. In 1993 she made her literary debut as a poet, and was first published as a novelist in 1994. A participant in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, Han has won the Man Booker International Prize, the Yi Sang Literary Award, the Today’s Young Artist Award, and the Manhae Prize for Literature. She currently works as a professor in the department of creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.