Tuesday, November 1, 2016

G679 Book Review of Son Of Man by Yi Mun-Wol

Name of Book: Son of Man (Original title Saramui adeul)

Author: Yi Mun-Yol translated by Brother Anthony

ISBN: 978 1 62897 119 4

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Type of book: religion, faith, place of G-d in life, murder, mystery, killer, friendship, wandering, theologies, philosophies, magic, discovery, ancient times of Augustus, curses, different gods and goddesses

Year it was published: 2015 (original 1979)


One of the greatest living Korean writers here details the quest of a young seminary student seeking transcendence, running through many Western and East Asian theologies in the process. Deciding that Jesus was not truly "the son of man," the student sets out to create his own alternative to Christ, and winds up dead. Soon, the detective called in to solve the killing winds up with more than a simple murder on his hands, as this metaphysical mystery advances to its unforgettable climax.


The main characters include Sergeant Nam who is a police officer and who is tasked with finding out the killer of Min Yoseop and why the man was killed in the first place. If I'm not mistaken the Korean War has/had a significant impact on his life, although I do not recall how. Min Yoseop is a promising and talented young seminary student that explores the religious world and for one reason or another gets himself killed. Cho Dongpal is Min Yoseop's pupil and is best described as blinded towards the facts that Min Yoseop had realization of. Ahasuerus is a bright, talented young man who is a lapsed Jew and makes choices to discover more about the faith's roots. He wanders and yes, he does encounter jesus in the story and has very enlightening conversations with him.


According to the author, it's impossible to be without divine presence


The story is in third person narrative from Sergeant Nam's as well as Ahasuerus's point of view. It starts with a murder mystery of who killed a young seminary student followed by discovering his identity and then the story gets mixed with what the young student, Min Yoseop, begins to write of a lapsed Jew, Ahasuerus and his religious discoveries. The story then interweaves the two which creates a compelling angle because for one there is exposure to very daring hypothesis for both Jews and christians and the mystery also becomes fascinating as to who had done it and why. The author handles both angles very well and when I was apart from the book, I still remember the sentences and ideas that were introduced within the pages.

Author Information:
(From back of the book)

Yi Mun-Yol was born in Seoul in 1948 and is the authro of numerous books, including Hail to the Emperor, Our Twisted Hero, and the novella Saehagok, which won the New Spring Literary Contest sponsored by Dong-a-Ilbo. He is among South Korea's most celebrated writers, and is currently a chari professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul

Born in England in 1942, Brother Anthony has lived in Korea since 1980. He is currently an emeritus professor of Sogang University and chari-professor of Dankook University. He has published over 30 volumes of translations, including Yi Mun-yol's The Poet


While I do not agree with the conclusions of the story, I did appreciate the behind-the-scenes and how faith has evolved throughout the ages and studies of Ahasuerus, a lapsed Jew who has become dis-illusioned with faith and began searching for the roots by trying out multiple faiths that are extinct today. I was a bit shocked at the behind-the-scenes of Judaism as well as the author's thoughts and hypothesis for latter half of Tanakh where Jews began to vanquish enemies. Unless the reader is prepared to have their faith shaken up, I don't think this is a book to read with a closed mind and I would recommend someone of open mind to read it. What I do strongly disagree are the conclusions that the main character, Min Yoseop, came up with because its possible to enjoy life and to simply exist without bringing faith into the equation, and I speak from a personal experience.

This was given to me by Dalkey Archive for an honest review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)


  1. I see you've actually reviewed a few books from The Library of Korean Literature.
    I do appreciate your honest review and that you are able to judge a book objectively even though you may not agree with its conclusions and messages.

  2. Thanks :) I honestly love the library of korean lit selections. Dalkey archive offers more than just korean lit: there are central American and middle east translations as well as some asian ones. You can try it out as well :)


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