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I Have the Right to Destroy Myself (Harvest Original) 1st Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0156030809
ISBN-10: 0156030802
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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)
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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
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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Original
  • Paperback: 119 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (July 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156030802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156030809
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #389,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
The way this short book (117 pages) is written ... kind of disjointed, hazy, unattached, is reminiscent of one in a suicidal state, which is important for the story in the book. However, the characters in the book that may have suicidal thoughts/desires seem to be thinking clearly, or lucidly, which leads us into a very interesting feel to the story. It is not a super dark story though, it is actually amusing at several points, and this story, I found to be one of the more unique reads (not best, but unique) that I have read in several years, so really enjoyed just having something different like this to read. It is not the type of story where you finish it and forget it. These characters, or, the story really, will stick with you for a short time... or maybe just the narrator will :) This is my first reading of this author.
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