Autobiography of death

Hye-sun Kim, 1955-

Book - 2018

"Consists of forty-nine poems, each poem representing a single day during which the spirit roams after death before it enters the cycle of reincarnation. The poems not only give voice to those who met unjust deaths during Korea's violent contemporary history, but also unveil what Kim calls "the structure of death, that we remain living in." Autobiography of Death, Kim's most compelling work to date, at once reenacts trauma and narrates death--how we die and how we surviv...e within this cyclical structure. In this sea of mirrors, the plural "you" speaks as a body of multitudes that has been beaten, bombed, and buried many times over by history. The volume concludes on the other side of the mirror with "Face of Rhythm," a poem about individual pain, illness, and meditation"--Provided by publisher.

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New York : New Directions Publishing Corporation 2018.
Item Description
Translated from the Korean.
Physical Description
110 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Main Author
Hye-sun Kim, 1955- (author)
Other Authors
Don Mee Choi (translator), P'i Yi (illustrator)
  • Commute : day one
  • Calendar : day two
  • Photograph : day three
  • Lean on the water : day four
  • Midnight sun : day five
  • After you're gone : day six
  • Tibet : day seven
  • Orphan : day eight
  • Everyday everyday everyday : day nine
  • Namesake : day ten
  • Butterfly : day eleven
  • Lunar eclipse : day twelve
  • Gravel skirt : day thirteen
  • Next : day fourteen
  • Death's magic compressed distance : day fifteen
  • Naked body : day sixteen
  • A grave : day seventeen
  • Black fishnet gloves : day eighteen
  • Winter's smile : day nineteen
  • I want to go to the island : day twenty
  • Smell : day twenty-one
  • Seoul, book of the dead : day twenty-two
  • Lack of air : day twenty-three
  • Autopsy : day twenty-four
  • Every day : day twenty-five
  • Mommy of death : day twenty-six
  • A e i o u : day twenty-seven
  • Already : day twenty-eight
  • Dinner menu : day twenty-nine
  • A gift : day thirty
  • Hiccups : day thirty-one
  • A lie : day thirty two
  • By the river of formalin : day thirty-three
  • Death swarmswarms : day thirty-four
  • Lowering the coffin : day thirty-five
  • Lord no : day thirty-six
  • A lullably : day thirty-seven
  • A crow flew over the cuckoo's nest : day thirty-eight
  • Icicle glasses : day thirty-night
  • Such painful hallucination : day forty
  • Marine blue feathers : day forty-one
  • Name : day forty-two
  • A face : day forty-three
  • A doll : day forty-four
  • Underworld : day forty-five
  • Asphyxiation : day forty-six
  • Heart's exile : day forty-seven
  • Moon mask : day forty-eight
  • Don't : day forty-nine
  • Face of rhythm
  • An interview.
Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Questions of the agency and effects of death, in both individual and mass tragedies, are central to this extraordinary collective elegy from Kim (All the Garbage of the World, Unite!). "The only thing you can give birth to yourself is, your death," Kim writes in the book's major component, a sequence of 49 poems—one for each of the 49 days the dead wander before reincarnation. The dead here frequently attempt to go about their former lives in a moving juxtaposition of the mundane and the terrible: "Will I get to work on time? You head toward the life you won't be living." Kim's collective you moves in and out of particular circumstances, chronicling loss with surprisingly delicate observations, as when she writes, "Woman, you're dead/ Water your shadow and your grave blooms." A long poem, "Face of Rhythm," serves as the book's second part as well as a kind of coda, offering a meditation on the endurable limits of a life that works in counterpoint to the bardo of the earlier poems. This is Choi's sixth masterly translation of Kim, and it fully reveals the startling architecture Kim develops to display structural horrors, individual loss, and the links between them. (Nov.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

*Winner of The Griffin International Poetry Prize and the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Award*Autobiography of DeathAutobiography of Death