Frieze

| An extract from Han Kang's article in Frieze Magazine

Many things fuel my writing. Firstly, there are the things that I see, hear, smell, touch and taste. There are also my dreams – occasionally nightmares – and daydreams. Then there are my private memories, though these don’t appear directly in my fiction. Most of all, there are the fundamental questions that have long haunted me. The persistent internal struggle. The everyday rhythms which compel me to continue writing.

And there are books. The books I read before or whilst writing one of my own have, in fact, almost nothing in common. Rather than choosing books that I think will be especially helpful for my writing, I read whatever takes my fancy. In the evenings, when I am too exhausted to concentrate on writing anymore, when I want to spend the night quietly, rather than with the fireworks of my writing going off inside me, and when, the following morning, I want to slip back into writing where I have left off the previous day, I read books that others have written.

In autumn 2014, when I began work on The White Book, I was in Warsaw. I wrote the first two chapters in that unfamiliar city and the third and last the following February, once I had returned to Seoul. I spent the summer of 2015 living in a quiet street in Norwich on the UNESCO writer’s residency and it was there that I completed the manuscript. Of the books that I read during this year of writing, the following is an extremely private record of several I had with me in Warsaw. 

I went to Poland with my 14-year-old son. We stayed for four months in a fourth-floor flat, where the top branches of two tall poplars were visible from the living room. I let my son have the bedroom and took the sofa bed for myself. I moved the table over to thewww window, to be closer to the trees.