Tim Liao is Professor of Sociology (and of Statistics) and served as Acting Director of the Center for East Asian & Pacific Studies (2012-2013).
The power of fiction is at its most potent when it speaks universal truth, even if truth about the darker side of human nature. Two recently translated books by South Korean novelist Han Kang are best examples showing such power. Her book The Vegetarian is Kafkaesque. Yeong-hye, a homemaker “completely unremarkable in every way” in her husband’s words, refused to eat meat, scandalizing her family along the way, before rejecting life itself. The author here explores desires, satisfied and denied.
Han Kang was born in Gwangju, the site of the 1980 student uprising and the subsequent state-sponsored massacre. Though her family moved away to Seoul later, the memories of discovering at the age of 12 the massacre portrayed in the photos taken by foreign journalists in a secretly circulated memorial album hidden on the top shelf of the family bookcase inspired—and compelled—her to write Human Acts over 30 years later. The writing is sensual, brutal, disturbing, yet lyrical all at once, reflecting on the universal presence of injustice.