- 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: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #462,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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I Have the Right to Destroy Myself (Harvest Original) 1st Edition
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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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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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Personally, I wasn't blown away by this book. But, I did enjoy reading it on the way down to the beach.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Must read. Every culture has their world view and it's surprises to a western reader. I consider this brilliant story telling with lot's of surprises.Published 15 months ago by Charles W. Nelson
Interesting and different. Have never read anything like it.
Not much plot but it was a pleasant read. I just wish it was longer!
This book has a strong "minimalist" influence. The writing is not gripping but somehow the eerie story makes up for what the book lacks in style. Read morePublished on September 5, 2013 by Vault101
There is no entertainment value; it is a very choppy, difficult to follow, undeveloped narrative--not anything resembling a novel. Read morePublished on August 8, 2013 by bigboppar
I love the book, however I was under the impression I was buying it new and it arrived in average condition, seeming as though it was a used bookPublished on March 26, 2013 by Julie Howell
To be perfectly honesty - it's my fault. I failed to read any reviews of this book before I read it. Read morePublished on March 29, 2012 by Suzi
The summary and good reviews made me interested to read this book. However, as I read it I found I couldn't understand how the story kept shifting and by the end of it I was fairly... Read morePublished on March 4, 2012 by Emily