I’m currently reading the new Pulitzer Prize (yay another tick on my Pulitzer Prize challenge!) and to be really honest, I’m writing this half way review really fast because it is awesome and I can’t wait to go back to it.
Adam Johnson, journalist, places his novel in the North Korea of Kim Jong Il.
Jun Do, the main character, thinks he is the son of the Orphan Master. He lives in the orphanage of Long Tomorrows until the army comes around and chooses him to become a tunnel soldier. Eight years later, a General recruits him for kidnapping missions of the Japanese coast. After several successes, he’s sent to language school to learn English. He’s sent on a fishing boat to listen to radio transmissions. After he’s made a Hero of the Eternal Revolution, he’s chosen to make a trip to Texas to tell his story to the Americans while secret negotiations will be happening.
“Where we are from”, he said, “stories are factual. If a farmer is declared a music virtuoso by the state, everyone had better start calling him maestro. And secretly, he’s be wise to start practising the piano. For us, the story is more important than the person. If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change.” […] ” But in America, people’s stories change all the time. In America, it is the man who matters. Perhaps they believe your story and perhaps not, but you, Jun Do, they will believe you.”
Jun Do is, as his name indicates (Jun Do = John Doe), a character in search of his identity. He’s quite passive though, he rarely acts. He’s an observer, a listener. He’s the result of years of indoctrination and propaganda. He has several occasions to defect but everytime he passes on them.
So far, it is an excellent book about identity, propaganda and misunderstanding between cultures. The style is simple enough to make the reading flowing but offers a lot of room for interpretations and reflections.
So far I’d give it it a 8/10