- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (September 21, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385523912
- ISBN-13: 978-0385523912
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,629 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea Reprint Edition
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A National Book Award finalist and National Book Critics Circle finalist, Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy is a remarkable view into North Korea, as seen through the lives of six ordinary citizens
Award-winning journalist Barbara Demick follows the lives of six North Korean citizens over fifteen yearsâa chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and a devastating famine that killed one-fifth of the population. Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime todayâan Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, where displays of affection are punished, informants are rewarded, and an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life. Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and through meticulous and sensitive reporting we see her subjects fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we witness their profound, life-altering disillusionment with the government and their realization that, rather than providing them with lives of abundance, their country has betrayed them.
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But I’m an American, I have no idea what it’s like to be afraid to criticize politicians. In truth, I don’t think anyone who hasn’t lived under the Kims could know how disparaging it is. It’s ‘1984’ come true in all the worst ways.
The news covers a regime, a country and the mad man who runs it. We hear of nuke testing, missle launches and sancuntions. But we don’t hear about the mothers trying to care for their families, the homeless, starving children or the men who are forced to work for no pay. This book is an eye opener. It focusing on those who really matter and it’s not the Kims, it’s the people who are trapped in his hell.
At the end of the day, I get to put down the book and return to my life. There is nothing that can be done to reach those who are suffering. But I’d like to think that just knowing that they are suffering helps in some small way. I am certainly more grateful for everything in my life.
Demick made the choice to interview defectors from the same city in North Korea's far north...a city removed from the showcase capitol of Pyongyang. This gives each voice credibility, not only as windows into one of the "less blessed" areas of NK, but as time frames and information each person gives can be fact-checked against one another.
What touched me the most was one character's realization that others felt the same way that he did about the government -that it was a ridiculous sham that controlled them. Yet, the realization brought no peace: in a world where one word of criticism could damage your entire family's reputation and leave them homeless (the government controls all housing), how can anyone rebel? When escaping or openly rebelling could realistically sentence your entire family to a concentration camp, what does it matter if you would lay down your own life for freedom?
Some North Koreans are true believers. Several of the people in the book started out believing in the regime with their whole hearts. But the truth slips in, in simple ways, no matter how tightly the government tries to hide it: one person's revelation came when she noticed a picture in the official state paper showing an "oppressed" foreign worker....yet he had a jacket with a zipper and a fountain pen in his pocket: luxuries she could not dream an ordinary worker would wear.
A fascinating and educational read. Highly recommended for anyone who wants insight into the North Korean dictatorship and it's impact on the people who live there.