Rina de Young-sook Kang

de Young-sook Kang - Género: English
libro gratis Rina


Rina is a defector from a country that might be North Korea, traversing an "empty and futile" landscape. Along the way, she is forced to work at a chemical plant, murders a few people, becomes a prostitute, runs a lucrative bar, and finds a solace in a motley family of wanderers all as disenfranchised as she. Brutal and unflinching, with elements of the mythic and grotesque interspersed with hard-edged realism, Rina is a pioneering work of Korean postmodernism.

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If you want to know what it would be to be a victim of human trafficking in Asia, this is the book. I think it is quite worth reading for the complex character of Rina, and how she negotiates the jungle of pimps, labor contractors, industrial polluters, and political mines in several unnamed countries (North Korea presumably as her starting point, and China as the location of most of the action.) In a very low-key way Kang Young-sook weaves in the details of the actions that betray her humanity and virtue, often in spite of herself. She is very strong, a natural leader, and yet sometimes bent on self-destruction. A real person, in other words. In retrospect I admire the book more and more.

I am wrestling with the endless episodes of trafficking, however. About half-way through this reader said ‘enough already--I get it--where was your editor?’ At the same time, I understand that this is probably the way it seems to someone who gets into the situation of being illegally in a country, subject to arrest, extortion and corruption at every turn. It just never ends. You get out of one jam and into another. And yet Rina survives above all odds. As long as she makes enormous efforts to care for an old woman who taught Rina her musical/dramatic art, to cart her from one outpost to another, Rina survives. When the last catastrophe finally kills the old woman, Rina is without her lodestar, and although she takes on the quasi-mothering role for a group of teenagers, her luck runs out. These crass young men cannot have the power of an ancient artist.

I am writing this review after reading another Korean book that made me return to thinking about this one. The Story of Hong Gildong, by an unknown author of the nineteenth century, is about a sort of Robin Hood in a hazy ‘long ago’ Korea. He is a Robin Hood because as the illegitimate son of a noble (born of a concubine) he cannot seriously strive for a position in government or military, despite his superior gifts. So he wins the leadership position of a band of robbers and goes to work. Eventually the king extorts his surrender (by threatening his father and brother, and thus the family itself). But Hong Gildong talks the king into letting him leave the country and set up an idyllic new society with his bandits on a faraway northern isle. I saw some parallels with Rina. She operates outside the normal structure of society, forced to do so by the despotic leader of her native country. She is also a natural leader, who come up with ingenious ideas for solving problems and escaping quandaries. She has no compunctions about killing the oppressor, when necessary. But this story is much darker, and when Rina heads north with the substitute family she has gathered, she ends up in a disastrous industrial waste site. I may be stretching the comparison, but apparently Hong Gildong is a very important cultural reference point, so it seems as if these twisted nesses might be present.

Not an easy book to get through. There are a lot of uncomfortable scenes. But this is a worthwhile view into the topics, and it’s well-written.This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.Show full reviewasian-literature fiction-in-translation12 s Paul FulcherAuthor 2 books1,578

리나 by 강 영숙 (Kang Young-sook) was translated into English as Rina (the phonetic equivalent) by Kim Boram.

The best description of the novel comes from the author's own take, from an interview, on what she was trying to achieve:

"My novel, Rina, is a story about a girl who escapes from a country loosely based on North Korea and traverses the tough landscape of Asia. Rina, the main character, is reminiscent of a North Korean defector, but could in fact be any woman in our globalized reality who is crossing borders as we speak, braving all manners of voluntary and involuntary diaspora. I thought about everything that could possibly happen when a girl who was born and raised in the margins of Asia tries to cross a national border. There’s no guarantee that all kinds of horrible things such as starvation, murder, drug abuse, prostitution, trafficking, explosions, fraud, or betrayal would not befall her. And the replacement families, love, death, and parting that take place under these horrid circumstances are also things she would not be able to avoid. Rina could be read as a bildungsroman since Rina grows up as she journeys across borders. I dealt with big, delicate topics such as division, capitalism, industrialized mechanized civilization, environmental issues, culture and customs, gender, and the body. In any case, I wanted to create a narrative that deals with diaspora, borders, and women in a unique tone."

Rina and a group of 21 others escape from their homeland, hoping eventually to reach the almost mythical "country of P". In practice, Rina is soon separated from most of her companions , as she spends years working her way through a number of cities and countries in a rather nightmare landscape of arid and largely deserted plains broken up by highly polluted and dangerous industrial complexes (one suspects an allegory for much of modern China).

One such place suffers a Bhopal- disaster and temporarily attracts international attention to the plight of the migrant workforce but ultimately: "even the environmentalists could do nothing but smoke and stare off into space. When they ran out of cigarettes, they left for the other side of the globe, in search of an issue even trendier than the plight of the industrial complex"

The story is by no means sentimental. Even at the outset of her journey, when she assumes she will eventually reach P, Rina is realistic:

"It was hard to decide what was worse: spending the rest of her life in a cramped house in a mining town pockmarked with graying linens on laundry lines, or getting a taste of life abroad even if it meant becoming a whore."

And Rina does indeed work as a whore, runs her own rather tawdry bar at one point, and encounters people trafficking, organised crime, drugs, sexual abuse, alcoholism and violence (including herself committing a murder). She is a survivor doing whatever it takes: "you'll definitely never go hungry, wherever you end up." someone remarks, which isn't meant entirely as a compliment.

She quickly is separated from her own family but rejects an opportunity to re-join them, instead gathering round her a ragtag group of fellow wanderers, diverse by age, gender, nationality, sexuality. But even here, any affection is tempered by realism:

"'She a personality disorder, is an alcoholic, suffers from deprevation of affection, and is homesick on top of all that...' the others whispered as Rina cried."

Shoes are one running theme through the novel - although again as much as an instrument of suffering on the long marches the escapees initially undertake. But Rina does permit herself a rare moment of sentimentality towards the novel's end as she spots a shoe stall in a market:

"She had to have those dowdy-looking beaded slippers. They were shoddy little things that would surely fall apart in less than an hour had she worn them during one of her escapes. But Rina knew that one day, when she had stopped to look at a sunset during one of her escapes, or when she was done escaping and was old, or at peace, she would want to wear those shoes on her bare feet and feel the wind and the air of wherever she was. So it didn't matter whether or not they fit her, or whether or not they were sturdy."

But even that tiny hope is to be denied her - the cash she has saved up in a tin box from the years of working in factories and the bar turns out to have been contaminated and ruined in the industrial disaster.

The novel is a deliberately disconcerting read. The setting is largely allegorical rather than concrete, the novel is filled with "a superfluity of narrative and ... seemingly unnecessary details and items" [from So Young Hyun's critical commentary included in the edition], what happens (while described in such detail) is actually largely unimportant in the story compared to what Rina experiences, and there is little sense of progress or indeed closure in the plot or development of the characters.

All of this is quite intentional from the author and serves to emphasise both the disorientation of the escapees and the universality (in time and place) of their plight. And it is an impressive literary effect. But it has the drawback of not making the novel particularly readable - one admires the author's intentions at times more than the resulting execution on the page.2016 dalkey-korean korean-literature4 s Tony21 19

Kang Young-sook’s Rina (translated by Kim Boram, electronic review copy courtesy of Dalkey Archive Press) begins with twenty-two escapees hoping to cross the border of their poverty-stricken country. As nervous as they are, this is merely the first crossing of several on their arduous journey towards the country of P, and there are days (possibly weeks) of travel before they reach their destination. One of the group is a teenage girl, Rina, and the story focuses on her as she struggles to keep up with her family and fellow villagers (wishing she had more suitable shoes for the trek).

While the first part of the trip goes relatively smoothly, if uncomfortably, Rina is one of a small group who are caught near their second border, subsequently forced to work as slave labour at a chemical plant. Rina, however, turns out to be fairly resilient, and won’t let a little thing kidnapping stop her. Yet as she moves closer towards her supposed destination, the young woman wonders whether she really wants to reach P., meaning her story is set to turn in a completely different direction.

One of the most recent Library of Korean Literature titles, Rina is less the story of one woman than a book describing the difficulties faced by those who want to seek a better life elsewhere. However, even if she is more of a symbol than a person, she certainly stands out with her will to survive and a talent for making the most of bad situations. Near the start of the novel, we are told that the characters making up her name mean ‘clever’ and ‘beautiful’; what we see over the course of the book leads us to consider her name well chosen.

The story begins in the midst of the first crossing, and Kang provides the reader with a sobering picture of a mass silent flight:

The river was crawling with processions of people fleeing the country. No one spoke, no one asked what route you had taken to cross the border, or what your reasons were for fleeing. The night was filled with shadows and the sound of legs slicing through water.
p.13 (Dalkey Archive Press, 2015)

As Rina and her companions progress on foot, by bus or by train, there’s a strong temptation to try to map the journey, even though (initially, at least) no place names are actually mentioned. It’s fairly clear that the refugees are modelled on North Koreans attempting to make it to the south, and much of the second half of the novel takes place in a country suspiciously reminiscent of China, with Rina caught in the middle of an impending environmental disaster (a section with echoes of the pointless destruction described in Yan Lianke’s The Four Books).

While the refugees are desperate to arrive in the fabled land of P., Rina is far more about the journey than the destination. A clear picture is given of the hardships faced, of which the long walks and endless bus and train journeys are only the start. The refugees lack food and water, meaning that when they do manage to eat, their stomachs are unable to cope (with inevitable, messy consequences…). On top of this hunger, filth and exhaustion, the weary travellers must keep their wits about them when dealing with guides and corrupt border officials. Even when the money has been paid, betrayal is always a possibility…

Of course, that’s not the worst of their problems. Death is, unfortunately, the migrants’ most WITM Logofaithful and constant companion, and when this is the case, attitudes towards life can become rather jaded. With each setback, Rina becomes ever more hard-bitten, and rather than developing, or growing up, she decides to focus on what she can get out of the present moment, usually financially. This means that the story doesn’t so much progress as simply move on to a new location, with each stop a seeming repetition of the last. Sometimes things go better, sometimes worse, but there’s little to look forward to long term.

If death makes frequent appearances, so too does sex, and while Rina begins the novel as an innocent teenager, the reality of the refugee existence means that this situation was never ly to last. First, she has men force themselves upon her, before being tricked into crossing the border for a life of prostitution. Yet with the passing of time, she appears to come to terms with the situation, accepting that using her body is probably her best bet of lifting herself out of poverty. Ironically, the one person who doesn’t force himself on her is Pii, a youth she meets on her journey, and with whom she enters into an uncertain relationship. The two follow each other across borders, never really together, but circling around each other, each reflecting the other’s growth – or perhaps ‘transformation’ would be a better word. It’s not really clear that these changes we see are for the better.

Rina is interesting in parts, especially in the first half, yet in truth this was a book I found hard to . The writing was fairly dull, and while it’s tempting to put this on Kim (#blamethetranslator), it’s more a case of some rather flat prose (and the fact that the story peters out a little) than any really terrible writing. So Young Hyun’s ‘Critical ary’, however, provides a rather different view. In a very convoluted way, it attempts to talk the story up, painting Kang as a master of postmodernism:

By breaking free of the epistemological boundaries of meaningful and un-meaningful to strip away meaning itself, this deferral of judgement is tantamount to a Derridean encapsulation of textual reality, and it contains a postmodern destructuralizing move that annihilates the value hierarchy between inside and outside. (p.246)

Of course it does…

Rina will appeal to readers interested in the issues of asylum seekers and the struggles of women in the developing world, and it’s an appropriate choice for Women in Translation Month. All refugees have stories to tell, but women’s tales aren’t always heard:

Today’s story is the story of a girl who crossed a border into your country and is now twenty-four.
The lower part of this globe is filled with poor women. You say there are poor women everywhere? Hold on, even if you have something to say. Right now, it’s my turn to speak. (p.67)

Perhaps Kang’s true intention is to use Rina as a symbol of all those who are trying to find a safe place. In a dangerous world, she’s the voice of those who have none of their own…

Review originally published at the Tony's Reading List Blog1 Andrea31

A bleak and at times outright jarring narrative. What Rina is "about" is most basically a young woman's never-ending escape, first from her home country of presumably North Korea and subsequently from all of the places and situations of exploitation prostitution etc. that she ends up in. But the book really stands out not necessarily for what happens so much as for the way what happens is told. Rina's unreliability as a narrator heightens the sense of disorientation and often toys with magical realism. And then there's the writing itself, which mostly rejects flowery lyricism and sentimentality. Perhaps this is more a side-effect of translation rather than author intention, but either way the unadorned and unceremonious prose is stark and vivid and absolutely worth experiencing. This is the most unique book I've read in the past year.favorites Fred Daly696 7

I wanted to this book, but didn't. It tells of the travels and travails of a girl who escapes from her terrible home country (never named, but North Korea) and wanders all around a different country (China) being exploited in every possible, scrabbling to survive, and just generally enduring. Rina isn't so much a character as a vessel that collects all the horrors of a dog-eat-dog world. I guess I just don't allegory, and I don't much go for fiction that has a polemical purpose. I've read a few memoirs by North Korean escapees, and I feel they do a better job of exploring these issues, though they're not especially literary. Sophie37

I bought this book 4 years ago and just now have gotten around to it. I think you have to be in a very particular mindset to be able to read this book. There is so much bleakness, but at the same time I found it not without its comforting moments. So Young Hyun discusses in the critical commentary the wholly episodic nature of this book, and that style really drew me in, and feels so true to how I experience living. Themes aren’t strung together in a nice narrative bow, they just keep tumbling around as time passes, and yet still don’t feel disjointed. I found this book to be very masterfully constructed in that way. Not sure I’ll ever be able to read it again, but I really appreciated it. nuryn3

my first time reading a book of this genre and im kinda digging it. its basically about the hardships rina goes through when escaping but its so interesting to read. its a bit all over the place and it does get confusing at times but i that for some reason. there were some uncomfortable scenes and it was pretty hard to get through them, but i assume thats the point the author was trying to make about the poverty and human trafficking etc. overall its very very unique and so well written. J R1,032 15

A gorgeous, slim novel. Although it's about the experiences Rina goes through, in a lot of places it doesn't focus on what happens and instead on the ripple effects on her and on her companions, and this works very well for me. thanks for the ARC Vania Bregieira15 3

Intense, genuine and upsetting. Rina goes through situations that we thankfully only ear about, however the way Young-sook describes it, it becomes real and horrific in an amazing wriiten form. Martin223 3

Update: I want to clarify that this is my favorite novel of all time I honestly can not stop thinking about this a year later.

One of the most memorable book I have ever read. This feels a life changing novel to me, one that I am so glad to have read. SubashiniAuthor 5 books165

Reviewed it here. Justin Kern201 15

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