Title: The White Book (original title: 흰)
Writer: Han Kang
Publishing House: Granta Books
Date of Publication: November 2nd 2017 (first published May 25th 2016)
Rating: 5 stars
‘’I hold nothing dear. Not the place where I live, not the door I pass through every day, not even, damn it, my life.’’’
In the beautiful, mysterious world of colours white retains an exceptional position. White is purity, light, clarity, sanctity, fragility. White is the symbol of the union between two people and the colour of mourning in East Asian culture. In Greece, white is the colour of purity and the sun. The houses in our islands are white-washed to reflect its rays. In China, white is worn in funerals to symbolize gratitude and in Korea, it symbolises the clarity of the passage to a less troubling world. In Peru, white is associated with good health and prosperity. In the Balkan countries, white is associated with snow, light and the wisdom of the human race. White is the colour of peace seen in the White Flag of truce and ceasefire, the hope for the end of violence in its most terrible form, the war. White is the colour of the angels and the colour of ghosts. In Han Kang’s shuttering account, white is despair and hope, pain and winter. It is an elegy for a life taken too soon and a chance that was never granted.
‘’Snow had begun to scatter down. Outside, the alley had darkened, the street lights were not yet on. Paint tin in one hand, brush in the other, I stood unmoving, a dumb witness to the snowflakes’ slow descent, like hundreds of feathers feathering down.’’
The beauty of the snowflakes, the mystery of the fog. The white of our bones, these God-given miracles that construct our very being, so strong and yet so fragile. The white of a mother’s milk, the very essence that keeps us alive when we need it most. The moon with its white light that keeps us company during the long nights when our thoughts keep us awake and our fears acquire substance. When the face of the Man on the moon gazes at us kindly, with sympathy because he knows. The white nights in summer that protect us from the darkness. The secrets of the mysterious colour compose a haunting elegy to a stillborn sister. A symphony written in Warsaw with echoes of Seoul, beautiful cities where winter freezes everything and paints in white and grey, the colours of the ashes…
One of the most haunting, beautiful, raw books that will ever grace our world…
‘’In this city of severe winters, a December night unspools itself around her. The darkness outside the window has no moon to soften it. In the small workshop to the rear of the building, presumably as a security measure, a dozen electric lights are left on all through the night. She looks at the patches of illumination, scattered and isolated amid the black.’’
Beautiful review of what you describe as a beautiful book.
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Thank you, Marialyce!
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