Shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize
From Booker Prize-winner and literary phenomenon Han Kang, a lyrical and disquieting exploration of personal grief, written through the prism of the color white
While on a writer's residency, a nameless narrator wanders the twin white worlds of the blank page and snowy Warsaw. THE WHITE BOOK becomes a meditation on the color white, as well as a fictional journey inspired by an older sister who died in her mother's arms, a few hours old. The narrator grapples with the tragedy that has haunted her family, an event she colors in stark white--breast milk, swaddling bands, the baby's rice cake-colored skin--and, from here, visits all that glows in her memory: from a white dog to sugar cubes.
As the writer reckons with the enormity of her sister's death, Han Kang's trademark frank and chilling prose is softened by retrospection, introspection, and a deep sense of resilience and love. THE WHITE BOOK--ultimately a letter from Kang to her sister--offers powerful philosophy and personal psychology on the tenacity and fragility of the human spirit, and our attempts to graft new life from the ashes of destruction.
Far from a traditional novel in its presentation, the engrossing latest from Man Booker International winner Han (The Vegetarian) fills spare pages with sometimes poetic meditations on the possibilities of a life unlived. After traveling to Warsaw from South Korea and renting an apartment, Han's unnamed narrator remembers the story of her parents' first child, a girl who died shortly after birth. The narrator investigates her own grief regarding this child to conjure a possible alternate timeline wherein the baby lived. The narrator looks through the eyes of this new person, wandering the foreign city, observing the snowy season developing around her, and using objects like "Sleet," "Salt," and "Sugar cubes" as titles to anchor each section. The narrator crafts an entire life for this lost sister before turning her considerations inward, asking if she would have been conceived if the child had survived. Han breaks her narrative into three parts, "I," "She," and "All Whiteness," and throughout writes with attention to the whiteness of the page. The second section, in particular, is wintery in presentation, with small blocks of black text floating atop swaths of blankness. Though thin on conventional narrative, the novel resonates as a prayer for the departed, and only gains power upon rereading.