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The White Book

Stark and pristine in its beauty, the words are there to be devoured, to be revered, to enjoy, allowed to envelop the mind, the very soul of the reader, as Han Kang creates, with her succinct use of language, a time and place in the here and now.

Describing all the many fascinating things in life to her older sister, born only to live a very short time, the many aspects of a life pristine in its perfection, a blank sheet of pure white still to be written upon, is  almost a meditation, a form of deep grieving for a soul unknown and yet loved as a family member.

She describes her reason for commencing this book in the spring: the list she wrote and the process that would be cathartic, transformative and in so being, become a thing of pure beauty.

Moving to a new city, a place of strange shapes and different language, the colours of the morning and the night has been described so well the vision is created, as if painted on a canvas: a sofa bed made up in the corner of the room is evocative of settling for the night; allowing a time of reflection of the day, the time passed.

Located on page 83, in the second section of this three section work, there is a delicate passage titled ‘handkerchief’ inspired by the simple task of a woman hanging out her washing in the afternoon light: perfection. Sand is a piece which could, as could many others pieces, stand alone as a delicately encapsulated moment to capture a scene, a thought;  to simply sit and consider, to meditate upon; to spend time with each word used so delicately, so descriptively. These are only two of the many pieces which reach out to tell with pure simplicity of the city which is discovered through fresh eyes.

There are longer passages. Some in a the form of a letter, others, thoughts written down, considerations of subject, time and place to be reflected over, to be discussed mentally, to be shared with her vision of siblings, always to remain unmet.

In the telling of her families’ loss and final acceptance of the fragility of life, easily given and equally easily taken away on what would almost appear to be a whim, the last segment completes the circle of life in stunning simplicity

Profound, deeply haunting and beautiful The White Book, the words broken only with the occasional black and white photograph, is a masterpiece in its simplicity, its beauty, is poignant style and the absolute beauty described that is and can be found everywhere we choose to look.

South Korean master Han Kang’s previous book The Vegetarian  won  the 2016 Man Booker International Prize.

Author Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith
Publisher Granta
ISBN 9781846276293
Distributor Allen and Unwin
Released December 2017