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I Have the Right to Destroy Myself (Harvest Original) Paperback

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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Original
  • Paperback: 119 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; Tra edition (July 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156030802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156030809
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 6.6 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Korean novelist Kim's tantalizing 1996 debut novel concerns a calculating, urbane young man who makes a business of helping his clients commit suicide. The narrator's favorite painting, Jacques-Louis David's The Death of Marat, encapsulates his outlook—to be detached and cold, an approach reflected in his account of a recent client who was romantically involved with two brothers (called C and K). The woman, Se-yeon, is a young, spacey, lollipop-sucking drifter who first hangs out with K before bedding C. Cab-driver K and video artist C become obsessed with Se-Yeon, who looks (to them) like Gustave Klimt's Judith. Judith, as they subsequently refer to her, later wanders off into a snowstorm, never to be seen by the brothers again. However, in this eerie, elliptical narrative, Judith reappears as the narrator's client. Moreover, Judith morphs into other objects of desire, such as a woman from Hong Kong the narrator meets in Vienna and an elusive performance artist named Mimi whom C films. Kim's work is a self-conscious literary exploration of truth, death, desire and identity, and though it traffics in racy themes, it never devolves into base voyeurism. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Kim's first novel reeks of 1990s South Korea, whose rising generation was the first to enjoy the freedoms and the attendant anomie of a wealthy society. There are three male and three female protagonists. The men are the narrator and brothers C, a video artist, and K, a taxi driver. The women are Judith (so-called by C, after the biblical heroine as painted by Gustav Klimt), whom K beds first (in C's apartment) but loses to C; a woman the narrator meets in Vienna; and performance artist Mimi, averse to cinematic media but willing to have C tape her. It is eventually disclosed that Judith and Mimi are clients of the narrator, who writes novels, perhaps including this one, but maintains a sideline in promotive rather than preventive suicide counseling. As bleak, chilling, and economically written as Stephen Crane's 1890s classics Maggie and George's Mother, though with characters miles up the economic scale from Crane's, Kim's deadpan, elliptical story is even more like the enigmatic love (?) stories of Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang, whose work must be watched as raptly as Kim's must be read. Mesmerizing. Olson, Ray

More About the Author

Born in 1968, Kim Young-ha kicked off his writing career with his first novel "I have the right to destroy myself", which won him the much-coveted Munhak-dongne prize in 1996. Since then, he has gained a reputation as the most talented and prolific Korean writer of his generation, publishing five novels and four collections of short stories.

Kim's novels and stories focus on articulating a new mode of sensitivity to life's thrills and horrors as experienced by Koreans in the ever-changing context of a modern, globalized culture. In his search for a literary style, as is often the case with internationally renowned post-modern novelists, Kim attempts to embark on exhilarating and provoking crossing of the boundaries of high and low genres of narratives. His historical novel "Black Flower" tells the story of the first generation of the Korean diaspora forced into slave labor in a Mexican plantation and later involved in a Pancho Villa-led military uprising in a style. Sources of inspiration for this novel came from classical "Bildungsroman", stories of sea trips as illustrated by the popular film Titanic, ethnography of religion, as well as Korean histories of exile and immigration. Another instance of Kim's fabulously mixed style is found in "The Empire of Light", his fourth novel, in which he raises the question of human identity in a democratic and consumerist Korean society by presenting a North Korean spy and his family in Seoul in the manner of a crime fiction combined with a truncated family saga and naturalist depiction of everyday life. The novel was published in the United States under a different title, "Your Republic Is Calling You" in 2010.

Each of Kim's novels has received acclaims from both critics and readers alike, and most have earned him major awards. In 2004--his "grand slam" year--he won three of the most prestigious literary prizes in Korea. With some 20 of his novels and stories being translated into more than 10 languages, he has begun to be recognized by critics overseas as well as in his country as representative of a literary breakthrough that occurred in the wake of democratization and post-industrialization in South Korea.

Kim began to earn his international recognition with a French translation of his first novel, "I have the right to destroy myself", which was published by Philippe Picquier in February 1998; the novel is set to be published in nine other languages, including English and German. A French version of "The Empire of Light" came out early in 2009 and gained favorable attention from such leading newspapers as Le Monde and Liberation.

As a young Korean master of storytelling, Kim is especially popular with Korean film directors, who have found in his works to be a repository of plots and characters that make for superb film-making. Two films have already been based on his fiction, and the cinematic adaptation of The Empire of Light is currently in progress. His latest novel, The Quiz Show, was also made into a musical in 2009.

Kim previously worked as a professor in the Drama School at Korean National University of Arts and on a regular basis hosted a book-themed radio program. In autumn 2008, he resigned all his jobs to devote himself exclusively to writing.

Currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University in the City of New York, he lives in New York City, USA.


Customer Reviews

Normally I would rate it 4 or even 3 stars, but I just really enjoyed this book.
Abc shopper
There were also almost no distinguishing breaks when the story changed, which probably added to my confusion.
Gee, if it so difficult to follow and obtuse in its message, it must be really good.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Katherine V. Molina on July 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
This was a neat little find...also one of the more viscerally disturbing books I've read in a while. Dark, clear, spare writing and a very smooth translation. It scared the heck out of me the first time I read it, and so I started over and read it again. Check it out.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Abc shopper on July 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
When I think about it "objectively" this book really wasn't THAT great. Normally I would rate it 4 or even 3 stars, but I just really enjoyed this book. When I first looked at it I thought "Oh, another book with death and sex. How 'deep.'" but something compelled me to read it, and it was great! The writing was simple, which I love because it frees one's mind to analyze the text. Clearly, there was a lot of thought and planning put into the structure of the book. Kim has a wonderful way of interleaving the stories that take place at different times which creates, as another reviewer stated, a "dream-like" effect. The transitions in time and to various parts of the story are seemless. This would be a wonderful book to analyze in full, and I certainly hope I have the time to do so! This is certainly an entertaining (though dark) book on any level -- for a light or indepth read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Soronia on November 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
Young-Ha Kim has a promising literary career ahead of him, and I think his prose is more than equal to his ideas. The execution of this dreamlike novel is quite excellent, and the moments that startle the reader from that dream are written with enough skill to make them disturbing without making them too sensational.

The story has five characters; C and K, two brothers who are both infatuated with Judith, an enigmatic and damaged woman. We also encounter a mysterious narrator and Mimi, a performance artist. The relationships are at once intense and tangential, touching only briefly and leaving insufficient impact to really change each other.

My only concern is that this feels a little like other postmodern novels. The characters and settings are new, but the process by which they arrive at their decisions is not. I think if Kim had had more time to develop the central relationship between the brothers and give more attention to the "narrator," it would have been five stars. Kim clearly has good ideas, but his musings on suicide in its many forms is too brief (after all, the title is I Have the Right to Destroy Myself--a provocative claim), too buried within some of the characters and too obvious in others. Mimi and Judith are perfect as stark symbols to the male characters, and I seeing them through the eyes of C and K gives them a certain archetypal quality. C and K, suffering in crushing, quiet loneliness, also have a certain symbolic nature. But self-destruction is a uniquely personal act, and if Kim was trying to demonstrate the different types of people who assert their right to do so, he fell short of making the personal as compelling as the symbolic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ada Ardor on October 14, 2012
Format: Paperback
I saw this intriguing titled book several times, so in a spirit of good Christmas cheer, I purchased the book, and finished it in about a day. Very strange concept. You don't understand until the end what the narrator does. Narrator is absolutely frightening, listening to hotlines, always with the right tugs.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brekah on May 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have perhaps spent too long thinking on this book, but I have been struggling with how to approach it--with, even, my own thoughts on it in general. I know I have mentioned before that I am not necessarily a fan of contemporary fiction, be it Korean or otherwise; in order to enjoy it, I feel that a contemporary work must lack a certain feeling of pretentiousness. It seems as though so many contemporary authors know that they are doing something "different," and want to be praised for that difference; they are perhaps certain that they will "blow your mind." It's as though they panhandle to the sort of twenty-something that claims to have "really understood Lolita," or dismiss other works due to the popularity of the author, as opposed to the content or general worth of the work. It's a sort of falsehood that I've seen everywhere in post-college individuals, and it's rather grating. It's as though authors are writing for shock value, and the readers are eating it up. I feel as though it's a great fault of mine that I've become so judgmental of contemporary fiction, and yet I can't help but indulge the mental rolling of my eyes that seems to occur any time some author finds a new, "artistic" way to describe sex.

Good contemporary fiction, however, is as wonderful as it is rare. An author that can shine through and depict his/her story in an honest and genuinely creative way is a true artist, and I'm happy to see that they are still around. I just wish that there were more of them.

That, I suppose, sums up my view on contemporary fiction.

And now for I Have the Right to Destroy Myself by Young-ha Kim.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn Ellington on November 5, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let me first start by saying this is a very flawed novel, there is not a lot of character development, and it is rather brief, but this work does have its merit. The author does of a very good job of convincing you that there are situation in which it would be better for a person to kill themselves than live their lives in constant pain. While I would'nt say this a classic work, it does add something important to the discussion about euthanasia.
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