Tag: Adam Johnson

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

January 20th, 2015 — 10:30am

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 3.41.31 PMThe Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson- This book reminded me of the many science fiction stories I read as a teenager. To me it felt as if we were learning about life on an alien planet. In this society, there is no kind of a stable life style or comfortable relationships. People can be whisked away, to do some work detail, sometimes never to return. If a wife has her husband taken away she might be assigned a substitute husband. On this planet children’s values come from loudspeakers that tell fables or bizarre truth or near truth all the time. Since there is no pretense that this is life on another planet, the reader might try to put it in prospective of something we have known about. Is this a version of the Holocaust where one group of people were completely devalued and then attempts made to ship them off and kill them all? However, here there isn’t one group of people that is subject to annihilation, it can be just about anyone. “ 1984” and Big Brother come to mind but we don’t have to think about a futuristic society because we are already told we are talking about North Korea and the way its rulers or should I say “Ruler” controls everyone’s life. In fact one of the central characters is Kim Jon II,, himself (referred to as “ Dear Leader”), the recently deceased leader of that country who is the father of the actual leader today Kim Jung Un. So if we take the story at face value are we being told the behind the scenes horrible life of the people who live in North Korea? Apparently the truth is that it is very difficult to be confident about what goes on in North Korea today. Adam Johnson, the author has visited the country and tried to speak with people who live there but who usually won’t speak to outsiders. He has told of interviews that he has had with defectors who have come over to “our side.” Johnson himself in interviews has admitted that much of the horrors in his book , he has made up although founded, no doubt ,on the stories he has read and things he has seen. Living in captivity, without descent food, eating flowers, having no toilet, being tortured by the “ autopilot “and ultimately becoming inhuman is apparently not an unusual story. The book is written well and the shifts in time and person as one character inhabits another character are challenging to follow but does help to take us to a deeper reveal of this horrible society that we are being told about. I have tried to understand the awarding of the Pulitzer Prize for this book and perhaps it was for the unique journey that the author chose to take us on. All the details can’t be accurate but the depiction probably is and thus Mr. Johnson has moved the curtain to show us one of the truly tyrannical societies that exists today.

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