I Have the Right to Destroy Myself

(Author) (Translator)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin
Publish Date
6.62 X 7.94 X 0.39 inches | 0.33 pounds

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About the Author

YOUNG-HA KIM is the author of seven novels--four published in the United States, including the acclaimed I Have the Right to Destroy Myself and the award-winning Black Flower--and five short-story collections. He has won every major Korean literature award, and his works have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He lives in Seoul, South Korea.

Chi-Young Kim is an award-winning literary translator and editor who has translated works by many South Korean authors.


"Mr. Kim's writing is tense, elemental, tangy. Like Georges Simenon, his keen engagement with human perversity yields an abundance of thrills as well as chills (and for good measure, a couple of memorable laughs). This is a real find." --author of Fixer Chao "Han Ong "
"Stylish .... Here are all the familiar tropes of the late coming-of-age novel: desire, self-destruction, boredom, and the inability of sex to extinguish all of the above. And yet this book is anything but predictable.... "I Have the Right to Destroy Myself" is also a work of resistance, but rather an existential one. Scenes wind down in an atmosphere of menacing ennui to a soundtrack of Leonard Cohen tunes.... Amazingly, this short novel never becomes a decadent love letter to suicide, or an excuse to drop a cluster of hipster signifiers. In fact, it reminds of a line written by French poet Baudelaire, himself a huge fan of "The Death of Marat," and a clear influence on this book. "Boredom," he wrote, "is pain spread out over time." Numbed into a state where they can't express their pain with words, C. and K. do nothing. Gently, this novel makes sure we feel their loss for them." -- Newark Star Ledger--Newark Star Ledger
"Kim's novel is art built upon art. His style is reminiscent of Kafka's and also relies on images of paintings (Jacques-Louis David's "The Death of Marat," Gustav Klimt's "Judith") and film (Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise"). The philosophy -- life is worthless and small -- reminds us of Camus and Sartre, risky territory for a young writer. Such heady influences can topple a novel. But Kim has the advantage of the urban South Korean landscape. Fast cars, sex with lollipops and weather fronts from Siberia lend a unique flavor to good old-fashioned nihilism. Think of it as Korean noir."--Los Angeles Times
"As bleak, chilling, and economically written as Stephen Crane's 1890s classics Maggie and George's Mother, though with characters miles up the economic scale from Crane's, Kim's deadpan, elliptical story is even more like the enigmatic love (?) stories of Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang, whose work must be watched as raptly as Kim's must be read. Mesmerizing." --Booklist
"The interactions, thoughts and fantasies of four protagonists interweave in a dreamlike narrative that eschews chronology and sequence, examining the role of "morbid desires, imprisoned deep in the unconscious" in each's experience. [T]he author is a stylish, inventive writer who builds eerie momentum out of cryptic conversations and deliberately imprecise characterizations. The brothers are both vividly differentiated and shown to possess similarly self-destructive traits. And the woman "a kind of Eternal Feminine temptress smiling and beguiling her way to oblivion"twirls around the text like a spinning jewel, appearing as an unresponsive drifter named Se-yeon, an avatar of the biblical heroine (and murderess) Judith as depicted by artist Gustav Klimt. The book's dark doings are efficiently framed by descriptive allusions to famous paintings that celebrate death, and by the narrator's assured orchestration of its siren call. Pretty sick, but absorbing. Noir with a piquant exotic twist." --Kirkus
"Korean novelist Kim's tantalizing 1996 debut novel concerns a calculating, urbane young man who makes a business of helping his clients commit suicide.[An] eerie, elliptical narrative. Kim's work is a self-conscious literary exploration of truth, death, desire and identity, and though it traffics in racy themes, it never devolves into base voyeurism." -- PW


"[Kim's] novels are fragments of his amazing imagination. With uncommon creativity, grotesque images, and stories that build on and into each other like a computer game, he perplexes his readers as much as he delights them."--LEADERS KOREA literary magazine