If you’ve been following my posts lately, you would know that my passion for Korea is expanding day after day. I’ve been getting to know it through its music, TV shows, popular games and food. And, from having watched a lot of Korean dramas and variety shows already, I’ve been convinced that Koreans’ sense of imagination cannot be defeated. They have proven their ability to come up with the wildest and most eccentric and original ideas through their digital productions, and that’s the reason why I wanted to discover the literary side of Korea and how its words would captivate me as these always seem to reach me better than images.
I Have the Right to Destroy Myself relates the story of an unnamed narrator whose job is to track the saddest souls around Seoul and help them commit suicide. He doesn’t force them or kill them by himself; he just offers a listening ear and a helping hand to help them choose the most appropriate way to end their lives. There is also another side to the story, where C and K are two brothers that have fallen for the same woman, Se-Yeon. They lived an atomized life punctuated with Se-Yeon’s choices that usually seem to be in C’s favor. The story goes back and forth making the reader unable to find his way to the reality, but slowly making sense as pages are turned. There is something beautiful and filthy at the same time about the two colliding stories that make them interesting each one in its own way. It’s like reading a same story from two different perceptions, letting the reader think about it and choose whose side to pick.
This book was different from any other one I have read before. When I first read its synopsis, even though the title inspires a lot of darkness and despair, I thought it would be one of these stories about love triangles that are frequently featured in Korean dramas but, to my surprise, it was absolutely nothing like this. Indeed, there was a love story that animated the events but there were also a lot of parts about art and lust; be it wanderlust or the carnal one.
Once I finished this book, I have found myself dumbfounded from the accelerated velocity of the events. I needed time to just reorganize everything in my head and figure out where to start this review from. And this is exactly the kind of books I like. The kind that leaves you bewildered and makes you retreat from the outer world just to process everything that went through so rapidly. It’s really sad that this novel only had 119 pages as the story would’ve been way much better if it had been prolonged a bit, but it was still an awesome reading. I’m glad that the first book from a Korean author I’ve read had enthralled me that way and I really hope that in a few years I can be able to read its original version in Korean since the translated versions are not always totally reliable. In the same way as the synopsis, I agree that this novel brilliantly affirms Young-Ha Kim as Korea’s leading young literary master and I won’t linger much longer to read another one of his pieces of art. It was such a blast.