Photo of Seoul by Jaako used under a Creative Commons license.

Young-ha Kim, I Have the Right to Destroy Myself (Harcourt, 2007).
Chapters about a dark angel who roams Seoul looking for potential clients, incipient suicides, bookend stories of his clientele, though narrative games abound here as our nominal protagonist is self-consciously artistic about their stories. Indeed, discussions of paintings by David and Delacroix bookend the story as well; the self-consciousness about art and death is quite overt.

Google Books lets you check it out. Here’s Wikipedia’s entry on Kim Young-ha. Here’s the bio on his own site. The Complete Review calls it engrossing but creepy, a powerful but disturbing read. Wook Kim (EW) describes it as a determinedly ”literary” effort exploring the alienating effects of life in the late 20th century. Publishers Weekly (via Google Books) calls it a self-conscious exploration of truth, death, desire and identity, and says that though it traffics in racy themes, it never devolves into base voyeurism. Danny Yee calls it atmospheric and compelling in its presentation of characters and its evocation of a “noir” Seoul. Serdar says it’s not great, but interesting. Brian Jungwiwattanaporn calls it a good opportunity to explore some of the concerns of Korean society. Monique calls the writing dreamlike and cinematic, with a certain dark brilliance. Jonathan Messinger says there isn’t enough story here to accomplish what Kim wants to do. Charles Montgomery sees a Nabokovian hall-of-mirrors, and elsewhere calls it a post-modern meditation on meaning, art, and death. John Burns says it seems to say, better to die with style than to go on living. Ada Tseng says it’s representative of the postmodern turn in Korean fiction.  According to Paperclippe, it’s a disturbing, gripping tale of sex and suicide, of how lives are tangled up together even when they seem unfathomably far apart. Silk Stocking says it was a quick read. Hyun describes it as a slim, fast-paced novel about art, existentialism, sex and suicide, with characters desperately searching for meaning in their lives in contemporary Seoul. Grierson Huffman doesn’t recommend it. Joseph Mark Switzer says traditional Western themes are lifted from Camus, Klimt, and Kafka and woven into the urban landscape of Seoul. KBS interviews him. So does Dafna Zur.

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