My Review

Han Kang’s The White Book is a delicate must-read

Stitched with writing pieces full of grief!

Vishal Sharma
ILLUMINATION
Published in
3 min readJul 19, 2020

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The White Book — Babbel

While scrolling Amazon, my buying history suggested me the books of a South Korean writer, Han Kang. I have been reading Haruki Murakami’s work for a long time now. After reading Killing Commendatore, Kafka on the Shore, Men Without Women, Sputnik Sweetheart, and Norwegian Woods, I wanted to try a new way of writing. A new reading style!

And, that’s when Han Kang came in! I came across books like The Vegetarian, Human Acts, and The White Book. THE WHITE BOOK! The name was fascinating and I ordered it right away.

The book talks about personal grief and that’s whole been written in a white POV. When we talk about sadness, depression, being low-key, black is the color we talk about. We talk about the darkness at that time. But, Han Kang’s writing brilliance shows that world through the prism of white color.

Pieces like “Laughing Whitely” and “Yulan” are beautifully stitched and talk about what they mean in the abstract form. The White Book doesn’t offer a full-fledged story like a novel. Neither does it contains poetry! The book is filled with unstructured musings-cum-poetry-cum-short stories showing the protagonist's life in the structure of white things.

The book takes us through a grieved journey of the unnamed narrator’s baby sister, who died two hours after her birth. Han talks about those precious two hours. Han shows us the world from the 22-year old mother's eyes who lost her premature baby in just two hours after her birth. Such pain, sanity, and sadness are shown in one of the pieces “Breast Milk”, where her husband goes to bury the dead baby and the mother feels a sudden fluid rush in her breast.

She sits up, clumsily squeezes her breast. First a watery, yellowish trickle, then smooth white milk.

The sanctity of the piece makes you empathetic towards that mother. The mother in the book who lost her baby girl. That’s why Han Kang is known as a lyrical phenomenon.

Revolving around white things like swaddling bands, salt, rice, bones, pills, hair, breast milk, and fog, Han Kang’s white objects converse with her baby sister’s death and two-hours life. Not only the baby's death and life, but Han Kang also talks about her family, herself, and the city she finds herself in.

My Take

The White Book pieces are delicate and mysterious at the same time!

There is a lot to love about The White Book. But, it is not easy to decode or demystify this book. It is a mysterious read which comes from a deep place. Kang describes her book as the imagination of her dead sister who she wished had lived and visited the city ‘in my place’. I am at a loss of word to describe this masterpiece. Han Kang handles different emotions delicately and is a pure reflection of the memories of people who we’ve lost in the past.

Peace!

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