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The Orphan Master's Son

A Novel
Durée : 19 h et 20 min
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Description

Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2013

An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, The Orphan Master’s Son follows a young man’s journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.

Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother - a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang - and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return.

Considering himself “a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress “so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.”

Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, The Orphan Master’s Son is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love. A towering literary achievement, The Orphan Master’s Son ushers Adam Johnson into the small group of today’s greatest writers.

From the Hardcover edition.

©2011 Adam Johnson (P)2011 Random House Audio

Commentaires

  • Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
“An addictive novel of daring ingenuity, a study of sacrifice and freedom in a citizen-eating dynasty, and a timely reminder that anonymous victims of oppression are also human beings who love - The Orphan Master’s Son is a brave and impressive book.” (David Mitchell, author of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet)
“I’ve never read anything like it. This is truly an amazing reading experience, a tremendous accomplishment. I could spend days talking about how much I love this book. It sounds like overstatement, but no. The Orphan Master’s Son is a masterpiece.” (Charles Bock, author of Beautiful Children)
“Adam Johnson has pulled off literary alchemy, first by setting his novel in North Korea, a country that few of us can imagine, then by producing such compelling characters, whose lives unfold at breakneck speed. I was engrossed right to the amazing conclusion. The result is pure gold, a terrific novel.” (Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone)

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Notations
Global
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Interprétation
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  • Global
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • KP
  • 29/06/2013

Fascinating!

The Orphan Master’s Son was fascinating and compelling. However, if you don't like graphic violence or the depiction of really depressing situations, then this book won't be for you. (I'm now reading a Stephen King book, and it seems like cotton candy compared to this.)

The structure of the book was interesting, even if a bit confusing. The first half was a twisted adventure story – picaresque, like Don Quixote where it moves from one adventure to the next. The second half was a love story, basically. The second half was really confusing for quite a while. It finally became clear that the story was really being told in three versions – Korean propaganda version, Ga version, and interrogator version. Also, it finally becomes clear that the interrogator character’s whole story line occurs AFTER the ending of the story of Ga and Sun Moon (trying not to give too much away about that ending.)

The characters were so well drawn. The growth and change of Commander Ga (Pak Jun Do) from beginning to end was very moving. In the beginning Ga’s name is Jun Do, and the author mentions how this is like John Doe, a nameless character. I presume he is telling us that Jun Do/Ga is like an Everyman character for North Korea. His various adventures demonstrate so much of what must be going on in North Korea.

Ga’s change at the end represents a hope for lifting North Korea out of the dark ages. I had no idea that North Korea was THAT horrible before reading this book. Shame on me, but it’s true. I credit Adam Johnson for bringing this horror to the eyes of many readers who, like myself, were unaware. Change could result from this exposure; one can only hope.

I found many parts of the book to be extremely disturbing – perhaps more disturbing than any other book I’ve read. The worst parts were those narrated by the interrogator character and having to do with the extreme torture. The depth of horror in the North Korean society seemed to be most represented by him. When he described his parents and it became obvious that even they were afraid of him it was done so chillingly. And when he goes through a change toward the end, well, I suppose that is part of the “redemption” in the book, if you could call it that.

I felt the book was too long. I’m not sure where I’d cut it, but perhaps some of Commander Ga’s various transformations could have been left out or shortened. Another possibility would be to somehow leave out some of the torture scenes which were so graphic and disturbing.


34 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Lisa
  • 27/01/2012

The most compelling listen I've ever owned

I've been an Audible subscriber since the beginning (1999). There are over 500 books in my library. This is the most compelling story I have ever heard. I seriously couldn't turn it off.

To say it is the journey of one man through the "Looking Glass" that is the People's Democratic Republic of Korea, doesn't do it justice. Johnson draws characters that make you feel the oppression of life under that regime. He's obviously done serious study of the North Korean people and culture. The people of this book will live in my thoughts for a long time.

And Johnson addresses this tale with a light touch. It's not maudlin or morose. But it is haunting.

The performances by the readers is equal to this work. The producers uses a very interesting switch at a critical point in this story that brings everything into focus. No spoiler - you'll know it when it happens. But the production makes this recording nothing short of brilliant.

Don't bother to hold the voting this year. I can tell you who wins the Audie.

108 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • CLC
  • 18/09/2015

Sometimes difficult to listen

Incredulous story but based on what I've read /heard about North Korea it's right-on. Some of the scenes are brutal but the horror and violence is never gratuitous and I thought the descriptions were fairly brief (except that your mind will continue to contemplate that which is unsaid). I have listened to some books where I've had to fast-forward through certain parts that were just too horrifying for me to bear . This book took me to that edge several times but then I was pulled back from the horror just as I was feeling I couldn't take much more.

I bought this book long before I listened to it--kept putting it off because the violence would be too much. But I was drawn in right away and often couldn't hit the "stop" button... had many "driveway moments" and the dog got walked much longer some evenings bec. I just couldn't stop listening. Bravo to Adam Johnson for his research into such a dark place and his ability to present an incredible story of devotion, bravery, soul searching, and ultimate sacrifice for the sake of others.

11 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Brigham
  • 15/12/2015

It Went From Well Written To Pulitzer Prize Worthy

At first, I was impressed with this story. It began compelling and interesting. Then approximately 1/3 - 1/2 into the book, it really took a jump from well written to Pulitzer Prize-deserving. From that point, the story earned its place atop my five-star shelf.

For those who have spent time interested in, or as students of North Korea, this will be particularly thrilling for you. The nature of the story seems so realistic against the true life stories shared by defectors from the DPRK.

What's more, this novel was released two years prior to the release of "Dear Leader" which convincingly (a true story) bears the realities of the Kim dynasty in North Korea and the mannerisms of Kim Jung-il. How Johnson came to personify Kim Jung-il with the realism he was able, verified by the Poet-Laureate of the DPRK is fabulous.

20 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Darwin8u
  • 05/08/2013

My favorite novel set primarily in North Korea

One of my favorite novels of the year, and definitely my favorite novel set primarily in North Korea (I've read four others, or five). This is one of those contemporary novels like 'The Son' by Meyer or Carey's 'True History of the Kelly Gang', or Udall's 'The Lonely Polygamist' that delivers almost everything I search for in a novel: originality, amazing prose, fantastic characters, meaning. These novels might not be 'War and Peace' or 'Moby-Dick' but they definitely show that fiction isn't even close to being dead.

Johnson deftly examines such themes as: propaganda, stories, the concept of self and identity, totalitarianism, love, memory, etc., in a novel way. This book deserves a spot among the other great totalitarian prison books (Koestler's 'Darkness at Noon', Orwell's '1984', and Nabokov's 'Invitation to a Beheading'. Even though only a part of this novel is actually set in a prison, I'd argue that all totalitarian literature is **at heart** just a sub-genre of prison literature. An amazing novel. Don't miss it.

55 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Susan
  • 15/03/2015

Hard to follow

This is a fascinating story. That being said, it was very hard to understand. I loved getting a glimpse into the authors experiences and understandings of North Korea and his afterward was very important to my understanding. Still, most of this I didn't enjoy very much.

6 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Karen
  • 24/02/2012

THE DARK SIDE OF CASABLANCA

This insanely unique novel is hard to describe. Its a literary thriller, a modern-day Casablanca, a character study and a unrelenting bleak and painful portrait of a Country (North Korea) where people are forced to live according to a script written by their sadistic leader, and one wrong word could land you in a prison camp. The pace doesn't let up for a moment as the author explores the effects of constant propaganda, deprivation, and the pain of having to hide your true self or risk torture or death. He weaves his story around a man who starts out in an orphanage, becomes a spy, a kidnapper, and ultimately, an imposter who takes on Kim Jong Il. It's beautifully written, brutally realistic and definitely not for the squeamish.

33 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Elizabeth
  • 02/05/2018

Mixed

Very interesting setting and premise, but fell short for me. The characters weren’t well developed enough for 19 hours, I ended up not really caring toward the end, which was disappointing given the reviews and the long build up.

5 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • K Cornwinkle
  • 15/08/2013

Hmmm...I liked this very much but

It is an important and good thing that this book gives readers a glimpse of the true horror of DPRK. But ultimately this is a story (as Adam Johnson tells us in an afterward) and while I think it intends to show us how REAL people suffer, the fantastical, which makes it such a great read, makes the characters stay on the page.
The narration is super. James Kyson Lee as the voice of the PA system in every home -reminded -irony in some way no?- of the disembodied PA voice in M.A.S.H.
I had tried to post a review with a bunch of links in it. A no-no I guess. North Korea information sites and Kim Jong Il's movie star mistress, Song Hye-rim's Wikipedia page.

10 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

  • Global
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Lua Wilkinson
  • 13/07/2015

A little lost at times...

Any additional comments?

Good story, was a little lost in the beginning. Not a book you can go in and out of. But it never lost me completely, and was overall good. Sometimes the narrator's "asian" voices were borderline racist sounding (think Mickey Rooney in Breakfast and Tiffany's), but otherwise narrator was good.

4 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Selicor
  • 07/05/2018

North Korea as Reality TV

On the lookout for new audiobook pastures I thought I could choose a Pulitzer Price winner and spare me the research. Big mistake! I should have known better than to naively suppose that any price would guarantee a good book.
I really tried! I kept listening and went back again and again when I realized that my mind kept drifting. At one point I decided to give up and admit defeat.
Perhaps if I had not read those other two books before, written by people who had actually grown up in North Korea and knew what they were talking about, perhaps then I may not have been so critical. But the bleak, hungry reality of those personal accounts and the deeply damaged people that resulted from decades of mortal threat and an impossibility to trust anyone had made a lasting impression upon me.
In my ears Adam Johnson’s book has an artificial, false ring to it. It is a piece of literature that draws its characters and scenery from a reality he either does not really know or does not care very much about. Everyone knows that North Korea is where the bad guys rule and life is a mess. So why not use it as a background for good fiction, well-spun sentences, entertaining characters.
I am of the opinion that Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son is to life in North Korean what reality TV is to our lives in the West. It is meant to entertain and attract viewers but it couldn’t care less about real life and the people used in its episodes.
Last time I gave back a book on Audible, I realized too late that I could not write a review about it any more. By now I have learnt. I want to give other listeners a chance to think twice before choosing this book. Time is precious and The Orphan Master’s Son is a cheap shot.

1 personne a trouvé cela utile

  • Global
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • J. Fischer
  • 05/08/2019

Interesting but flawed

I like the insights into North Korea and how it brings across the misery. However, the story somewhat destroys my suspension of disbelief by having the main character be a kind of Korean Forest Gump who lives several lives worth of experiences. Also, Kim Jong Il is a caricature.