Review: Vogel by Oh Jung-hee

 Book review | Vogel by Oh Jung-hee | 5 stars

Vogel by Oh Jung-hee
Original title: Sae
Cover design: Stef van Zimmeren | Riesenkind
Cover illustration: Archangel Images/HH/Imagestore
De Geus 2007
ISBN: 978 90 4445 0865 9



U-mi en U-il koesteren hun droom te kunnen vliegen. Zo proberen ze zich te handhaven in het harde leven, maar op het moment dat ze hun vleugels uitslaan, blijken ze vogels met gebroken vleugels.
Vogel speelt zich af tegen de achtergrond van het economische mirakel aan de Hanrivier, de jaren waarin Zuid-Korea van een straatarm land veranderde in een van de rijkste landen ter wereld. Het boek schetst een treffend beeld hoe de laagste sociale klasse ten tijde van deze kentering het slachtoffer werd van de intense urbanisatie en sytematische uitbuiting.

 Um-i and U-il cherish their dream of flying. That is how they try to maintain theirselves in their hard lives, but at the moment they spread their wings, it turns out they’re birds with broken wings.
The Bird is set against the background of the economical miracle of the Han River, the years in which South-Korea changed from a dirt poor country to one of the wealthiest in the world. The books paints a picture of how the lowest social class, at the time of this change, became the victim of intense urbanization and systematic exploitation.

Bullet-point review


+ poetic writing style
+ less is more
+ unknown culture (to me)
+ striking story
+ heart breaking

 – heart breaking

Full Review

When I picked up this book, I didn’t really know what to expect. I know next to nothing about South Korea. Of course, this book only shows a tiny part of a certain time point, but the poetic writing style made it feel as if I was right there.

The story itself is a sad one. Two children, abandoned by just about everyone, again and again. They struggle to make it on their own. Being the age they are (10 and 12), they don’t do very well, though probably as well as can be expected.

It’s a sad hard story, elegantly written. Through what it leaves out, it shows the hardness to that world these two children had to live in.

The book is originally written in Korean (though I can’t find that translation on Goodreads), and besides Dutch, has been translated to the following languages: English, German, NorwegianSpanish (and probably more).


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