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Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea par [Demick, Barbara]
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Descriptions du produit


Chapter One

If you look at satellite photographs of the far east by night, you'll see a large splotch curiously lacking in light. This area of darkness is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Next to this mysterious black hole, South Korea, Japan, and now China fairly gleam with prosperity. Even from hundreds of miles above, the billboards, the headlights and streetlights, the neon of the fast- food chains appear as tiny white dots signifying people going about their business as twenty-first-century energy consumers. Then, in the middle of it all, an expanse of blackness nearly as large as England. It is baffling how a nation of 23 million people can appear as vacant as the oceans. North Korea is simply a blank.

North Korea faded to black in the early 1990s. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had propped up its old Communist ally with cheap fuel oil, North Korea's creakily inefficient economy collapsed. Power stations rusted into ruin. The lights went out. Hungry people scaled utility poles to pilfer bits of copper wire to swap for food. When the sun drops low in the sky, the landscape fades to gray and the squat little houses are swallowed up by the night. Entire villages vanish into the dusk. Even in parts of the showcase capital of Pyongyang, you can stroll down the middle of a main street at night without being able to see the buildings on either side.

When outsiders stare into the void that is today's North Korea, they think of remote villages of Africa or Southeast Asia where the civilizing hand of electricity has not yet reached. But North Korea is not an undeveloped country; it is a country that has fallen out of the developed world. You can see the evidence of what once was and what has been lost dangling overhead alongside any major North Korean road—the skeletal wires of the rusted electrical grid that once covered the entire country.

North Koreans beyond middle age remember well when they had more electricity (and for that matter food) than their pro-American cousins in South Korea, and that compounds the indignity of spending their nights sitting in the dark. Back in the 1990s, the U.S. offered to help North Korea with its energy needs if it gave up its nuclear weapons program. But the deal fell apart after the Bush administration accused the North Koreans of reneging on their promises. North Koreans complain bitterly about the darkness, which they still blame on the U.S. sanctions. They can't read at night. They can't watch television. "We have no culture without electricity," a burly North Korean security guard once told me accusingly

But the dark has advantages of its own. Especially if you are a teenager dating somebody you can't be seen with.

When adults go to bed, sometimes as early as 7:00 p.m. in winter, it is easy enough to slip out of the house. The darkness confers measures of privacy and freedom as hard to come by in North Korea as electricity. Wrapped in a magic cloak of invisibility, you can do what you like without worrying about the prying eyes of parents, neighbors, or secret police.

I met many North Koreans who told me how much they learned to love the darkness, but it was the story of one teenage girl and her boyfriend that impressed me most. She was twelve years old when she met a young man three years older from a neighboring town. Her family was low-ranking in the byzantine system of social controls in place in North Korea. To be seen in public together would damage the boy's career prospects as well as her reputation as a virtuous young woman. So their dates consisted entirely of long walks in the dark. There was nothing else to do anyway; by the time they started dating in earnest in the early 1990s, none of the restaurants or cinemas were operating because of the lack of power.

They would meet after dinner. The girl had instructed her boyfriend not to knock on the front door and risk questions from her older sisters, younger brother, or the nosy neighbors. They lived squeezed together in a long, narrow building behind which was a common outhouse shared by a dozen families. The houses were set off from the street by a white wall, just above eye level in height. The boy found a spot behind the wall where nobody would notice him as the light seeped out of the day. The clatter of the neighbors washing the dishes or using the toilet masked the sound of his footsteps. He would wait hours for her, maybe two or three. It didn't matter. The cadence of life is slower in North Korea. Nobody owned a watch.

The girl would emerge just as soon as she could extricate herself from the family. Stepping outside, she would peer into the darkness, unable to see him at first but sensing with certainty his presence. She wouldn't bother with makeup—no one needs it in the dark. Sometimes she just wore her school uniform: a royal blue skirt cut modestly below the knees, a white blouse and red bow tie, all of it made from a crinkly synthetic material. She was young enough not to fret about her appearance.

At first, they would walk in silence, then their voices would gradually rise to whispers and then to normal conversational levels as they left the village and relaxed into the night. They maintained an arm's-length distance from each other until they were sure they wouldn't be spotted.

Just outside the town, the road headed into a thicket of trees to the grounds of a hot-spring resort. It was once a resort of some renown; its 130-degree waters used to draw busloads of Chinese tourists in search of cures for arthritis and diabetes, but by now it rarely operated. The entrance featured a rectangular reflecting pond rimmed by a stone wall. The paths cutting through the grounds were lined with pine trees, Japanese maples, and the girl's favorites—the ginkgo trees that in autumn shed delicate mustard-yellow leaves in the shape of perfect Oriental fans. On the surrounding hills, the trees had been decimated by people foraging for firewood, but the trees at the hot springs were so beautiful that the locals respected them and left them alone.

Otherwise the grounds were poorly maintained. The trees were untrimmed, stone benches cracked, paving stones missing like rotten teeth. By the mid-1990s, nearly everything in North Korea was worn out, broken, malfunctioning. The country had seen better days. But the imperfections were not so glaring at night. The hot-springs pool, murky and choked with weeds, was luminous with the reflection of the sky above.

The night sky in North Korea is a sight to behold. It might be the most brilliant in Northeast Asia, the only place spared the coal dust, Gobi Desert sand, and carbon monoxide choking the rest of the continent. In the old days, North Korean factories contributed their share to the cloud cover, but no longer. No artificial lighting competes with the intensity of the stars etched into its sky.

The young couple would walk through the night, scattering ginkgo leaves in their wake. What did they talk about? Their families, their classmates, books they had read—whatever the topic, it was endlessly fascinating. Years later, when I asked the girl about the happiest memories of her life, she told me of those nights.

This is not the sort of thing that shows up in satellite photographs. Whether in CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, or in the East Asian studies department of a university, people usually analyze North Korea from afar. They don't stop to think that in the middle of this black hole, in this bleak, dark country where millions have died of starvation, there is also love.

by the time I met this girl, she was a woman, thirty-one years old. Mi-ran (as I will call her for the purposes of this book) had defected six years earlier and was living in South Korea. I had requested an interview with her for an article I was writing about North Korean defectors.

In 2004, I was posted in Seoul as bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times. My job was to cover the entire Korean peninsula. South Korea was easy. It was the twelfth-largest economic power, a thriving if sometimes raucous democracy, with one of the most aggressive press corps in Asia. Government officials gave reporters their mobile telephone numbers and didn't mind being called at off-hours. North Korea was at the other extreme. North Korea's communications with the outside world were largely confined to tirades spat out by the Korean Central News Agency, nicknamed the "Great Vituperator" for its ridiculous bombast about the "imperialist Yankee bastards." The United States had fought on South Korea's behalf in the 1950–1953 Korean War, the first great conflagration of the Cold War, and still had forty thousand troops stationed there. For North Korea, it was as though the war had never ended, the animus was so raw and fresh.

U.S. citizens were only rarely admitted to North Korea and American journalists even less frequently. When I finally got a visa to visit Pyongyang in 2005, myself and a colleague were led along a well-worn path of monuments to the glorious leadership of Kim Jong-il and his late father, Kim Il-sung. At all times, we were chaperoned by two skinny men in dark suits, both named Mr. Park. (North Korea takes the precaution of assigning two "minders" to foreign visitors, one to watch the other so that they can't be bribed.) The minders spoke the same stilted rhetoric of the official news service. ("Thanks to our dear leader Kim Jong-il" was a phrase inserted with strange regularity into our conversations.) They rarely made eye contact when they spoke to us, and I wondered if they believed what they said. What were they really thinking? Did they love their leader as much as they claimed? Did they have enough food to eat? What did they do when they came home from work? What was it like to live in the world's most repressive regime?

If I wanted answers to my questions, it was clear I wasn't going to get them inside North Korea. I had to talk to people who had left— defectors.

In 2004, Mi-ran was living in Suwon, a city twenty miles south of Seoul, bright and chaotic. Suwon is home to Samsung Electronics and a cluster of manufacturing complexes producing objects most North Koreans would be stumped to identify—computer monitors, CD-ROMs, digital televisions, flash-memory sticks. (A statistic one often sees quoted is that the economic disparity between the Koreas is at least four times greater than that between East and West Germany at the time of German reunification in 1990.) The place is loud and cluttered, a cacophony of mismatched colors and sounds. As in most South Korean cities, the architecture is an amalgam of ugly concrete boxes topped with garish signage. High-rise apartments radiate for miles away from a congested downtown lined with Dunkin' Donuts and Pizza Huts and a host of Korean knockoffs. The backstreets are filled with love hotels with names like Eros Motel and Love-Inn Park that advertise rooms by the hour. The customary state of traffic is gridlock as thousands of Hyundais—more fruit of the economic miracle— try to plow their way between home and the malls. Because the city is in a perpetual state of gridlock, I took the train down from Seoul, a thirty-minute ride, then crawled along in a taxi to one of the few tranquil spots in town, a grilled beef-ribs restaurant across from an eighteenth-century fortress.

At first I didn't spot Mi-ran. She looked quite unlike the other North Koreans I had met. There were by that time some six thousand North Korean defectors living in South Korea and there were usually telltale signs of their difficulty in assimilating—skirts worn too short, labels still attached to new clothes—but Mi-ran was indistinguishable from a South Korean. She wore a chic brown sweater set and matching knit trousers. It gave me the impression (which like many others would prove wrong) that she was rather demure. Her hair was swept back and neatly held in place with a rhinestone barrette. Her impeccable appearance was marred only by a smattering of acne on her chin and a heaviness around the middle, the result of being three months pregnant. A year earlier she had married a South Korean, a civilian military employee, and they were expecting their first child.

I had asked Mi-ran to lunch in order to learn more about North Korea's school system. In the years before her defection, she had worked as a kindergarten teacher in a mining town. In South Korea she was working toward a graduate degree in education. It was a serious conversation, at times grim. The food on our table went uneaten as she described watching her five- and six-year-old pupils die of starvation. As her students were dying, she was supposed to teach them that they were blessed to be North Korean. Kim Il-sung, who ruled from the time the peninsula was severed at the end of World War II until his death in 1994, was to be revered as a god, and Kim Jong- il, his son and successor, as the son of a god, a Christ-like figure. Mi-ran had become a harsh critic of the North Korean system of brainwashing.

After an hour or two of such conversation, we veered into what might be disparaged as typical girl talk. There was something about Mi- ran's self-possession and her candor that allowed me to ask more personal questions. What did young North Koreans do for fun? Were there any happy moments in her life in North Korea? Did she have a boyfriend there?

"It's funny you ask," she said. "I had a dream about him the other night."

She described the boy as tall and limber with shaggy hair flopping over his forehead. After she got out of North Korea, she was delighted to discover that there was a South Korean teen idol by the name of Yu Jun-sang who looked quite like her ex-boyfriend. (As a result, I have used the pseudonym Jun-sang to identify him.) He was smart, too, a future scientist studying at one of the best universities in Pyongyang. That was one of the reasons they could not be seen in public. Their relationship could have damaged his career prospects.

There are no love hotels in North Korea. Casual intimacy between the sexes is discouraged. Still, I tried to pry gently about how far the relationship went.

Revue de presse

“The narrow boundaries of our knowledge have expanded radically with the publication of Los Angeles Times correspondent Barbara Demick’s Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea….Elegantly structured and written, Nothing To Envy is a groundbreaking work of literary nonfiction.”–Slate

“Excellent… lovely work of narrative nonfiction….a book that offers extensive evidence of the author’s deep knowledge of this country while keeping its sights firmly on individual stories and human details.”–New York Times

“A deeply moving book.”– Wall Street Journal
“Superbly reported account of life in North Korea’’– Bloomberg
“There’s a simple way to determine how well a journalist has reported a story, internalized the details, seized control of the narrative and produced good work. When you read the result, you forget the journalist is there. Barbara Demick, the Los Angeles Times’ Beijing bureau chief, has aced that test in “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea,” a clear-eyed and deeply reported look at one of the world’s most dismal places.’’– Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The ring of authority as well as the suspense of a novel.’’– Washington Times
“Excellent new book is one of only a few that have made full use of the testimony of North Korean refugees and defectors. A delightful, easy-to-read work of literary nonfiction, it humanizes a downtrodden, long-suffering people whose individual lives, hopes and dreams are so little known abroad that North Koreans are often compared to robots… The tale of the star-crossed lovers, Jun-sang and Mi-ran, is so charming as to have inspired reports that Hollywood might be interested.”– San Francisco Chronicle
“In a stunning work of investigation, Barbara Demick removes North Korea’s mask to reveal what lies beneath its media censorship and repressive dictatorship.”–Daily Beast
“In spite of the strict restrictions on foreign press, awardwinning journalist Demick caught telling glimpses of just how surreal and mournful life is in North Korea… Strongly written and gracefully structured, Demick’s potent blend of personal narratives and piercing journalism vividly and evocatively portrays courageous individuals and a tyrannized state.”– Booklist
“A fascinating and deeply personal look at the lives of six defectors from the repressive totalitarian regime of the Republic of North Korea… As Demick weaves their stories together with the hidden history of the country’s descent into chaos, she skillfully re-creates these captivating and moving personal journeys.”– Publishers Weekly
“These are the stories you’ll never hear from North Korea’s state news agency.”– New York Post
“At times a page-turner, at others an intimate study in totalitarian psychology. Demick… takes us inside the minds of her subjects, rendering them as complex, often compelling characters – not the brainwashed parodies we see marching in unison in TV reports.”– Philadelphia Inquirer
“The last time I read a book with something truly harrowing or pitiful or sad on every page it was Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and those characters had the good fortune to not be real.”– St. Louis Magazine

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 5419 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 340 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 1847080146
  • Editeur : Spiegel & Grau; Édition : 1 (1 décembre 2009)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B002ZB26AO
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Par Nans le 16 décembre 2013
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Conseillé par un ami anglophone, j'ai sauté sur l'occasion d'acquérir ce livre. Il est si rare de pouvoir découvrir l'histoire des Nord-Coréens et quoi de mieux que des témoignages poignants de ceux qui ont eu la possibilité de s'enfuir de cette prison à ciel ouvert. Romancé par l'excellente Barbara Demick, je conseille cette merveille à tous ceux qui souhaitent en savoir plus sur ce pays surréaliste.
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Par IamEden le 14 septembre 2013
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
The book centers on the daily lives of people living in NK that have defected to to South since. It will open your eyes on the life conditions of people living there. It is a great read but to read in parallel with "The Aquariums of Pyongyang" and/or "Escape to Camp 14" to have a more complete view of life in North Korea.
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Au début on se doute de l'objectivité globale de l'auteur car quelques détails semblent être décrit d'une façon peu subjective, bien "à l'américaine". Cela se perd au cours des chapitres où l'on se retrouve au milieu de la vie des protagonistes. Absolument à recommander - hélas publié en anglais uniquement jusque là, mais après quelques pages, ça va.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.8 étoiles sur 5 1.304 commentaires
407 internautes sur 420 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Defectors' Stories! 27 décembre 2009
Par Kevin Currie-Knight - Publié sur
Format: Relié Commentaire d‘un membre du Club des Testeurs ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
As Barbara Demick says in her epilogue, North Korea is something of a mystery. How has it avoided the collapse that experts have been predicting for 15 or more years? How has it been so successful at keeping citizens ignorant of the outside world and the outside world ignorant of its machinations? And, because of these successes at insulation, is it even possible to understand what life is like in North Korea?

Fortunately, Nohing to Envy gives us a "yes" answer to this last question; here is a book where we hear the stories of six North Korean defectors. In interweaving chapters, Demick reconstructs these tales of struggle with the skill of a novelist (and anyone not told that this is a work of journalism may be forgiven for thinking it a dystopian novel a la 1984 (Signet Classics) or We (Modern Library Classics)).

Dr. Kim is a medical doctor, devoted to the Workers party; Mrs. Song is a wife forced to find any way she can to feed her family, including daughter Oak-Hee in increasingly dismal times; Kim Hyuck is a boy whose father gave him to a state orphanage rather than have a son he couldn't support; Jun-Sang and Mi-Ran are secretly boyfriend and girlfriend, each with private reservations about, and struggles with, North Korea that remain private for fear of governmental repurcussions. Through these tales, we are able to glimpse life in a nation gone horribly wrong, where selling anything privately or insulting the Workers Psrty can land you years of time in prison or a labor camp, where emaciated children sing songs extolling North Korea, and one's station in life is dictated by how loyal one's family has been to "the Party." The stories are wonderfully told and, at times, I found myself putting the book down out of disbelief, outrage, and thankfulness for my own circumstances. I don't think anyone could read these stories and not feel very strongly.

Of course, Demick is also telling stories of defectors - by definition, stories about the strength of human spirit and tenacity. Nothing to Envy not only tells of economic collapse, but people's initiative in bringing about (illegal) markets to buy and sell goods. She not only tells of spirits being broken, but spirits persevering. And just as readers will certainly feel heartbreaks in these pages, so will they also feel joy in reading about some really brave people who broke the rules and thought for themeslves.

I cannot reccomend this book strongly enough! Readers of fiction (and biography) will get lost in the stories; readers of foreign affairs and political science will relish the descriptions of life under a most secret regime. Nothing to Envy is as captivating as a human story as it is informative as a political description.
178 internautes sur 188 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Details of life in North Korea 28 décembre 2009
Par John K. - Publié sur
Format: Relié Commentaire d‘un membre du Club des Testeurs ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
I find myself fascinated by the lives of North Koreans: So completely different from ours in the first world. What is most fascinating is that they don't even know what they're missing, indoctrinated virtually from birth that the U.S. is evil and their Dear Leader is a god. This book is for people like me, that want to know more about what it's really like to live there, day by day. The book is full of little details like the very modest housing, the lack of heat in the wintertime everywhere, and how rations worked before they were cut off; to say nothing of the many ways to avoid starvation or watching what you say all the time for fear of being reported to the authorities for the North Korean equivalent of blasphemy.

The book follows six people through their lives in the DPRK in the 1990's, including the huge famine which occurred at that time; and, ultimately, their decisions to defect (a foregone conclusion since otherwise their stories would not be told). I found myself fascinated by them, especially how each figures out that their country's leadership has let them down. The author even managed to fit in a love story which, far from being hokey, is especially riveting due to the circumstances. The book is well-written and easy to read, the only mar being occasional repeated information which is easy to overlook.

I feel like I'm barely scratching the surface with this review. If reading this makes you want to know more, you won't be disappointed by the book.
210 internautes sur 230 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Orwell's "1984" meets McCarthy's "The Road" 31 décembre 2009
Par Abacus - Publié sur
Format: Relié Commentaire d‘un membre du Club des Testeurs ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
This is a gripping book. The six defectors interviewed by Demick describe North Korea as a totalitarian state in a post-apocalypse condition. That's why the visions of Orwell and McCarthy come to mind.

North Korea suffered two tragedies. The first one was the split of the Korean peninsula at the end of WWII and Stalin installing a like-minded dictator at its helm, Kim Il-sung. The latter eradicates religion and replaces it by his own cult of personality. In achieving a God status in his country, he bests Stalin, Hitler and Fidel Castro. Upon his death in the early nineties, many North Koreans will commit suicides. And, North Koreans will believe (through intense political propaganda) that if they cry enough Kim Il-sung will come back from the dead. The son of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il will succeed him as a son of God.

North Korea's second tragedy was the collapse of the Soviet Union. When the latter collapsed it interrupted its assistance in food and oil. North Korea did not have enough fuel on its own to maintain its electrical grid. On the first page of the first chapter you see a picture of the Korean peninsula at night. South Korea is full of bright spots (urban areas lit by electricity). But, North Korea is pitch dark! In the post Soviet Union era, North Korea suffers shortages of electricity, running water, and food. Millions have already died of starvation. People are not paid. They are compensated by food rations. But, if you don't work you don't eat. The ones who don't receive food attempt to survive by milling bark, grasses, shrubs, leaves.

The majority of the country still suffers from malnutrition. Millions more would die if not for foreign assistance. But, the government misallocates food assistance by giving it to the ones who need it the least such as the army and the Pyongyang residents. Meanwhile, rural areas are starving. Within the book, a defecting doctor describes it best as she crossed the border in China and finds a full bowl of rice served to a dog and stated "dogs in China eat better than doctors in North Korea."

While Koreans physical attributes were reasonably homogeneous a while back, they have since diverged dramatically. The North Koreans are half a foot shorter and tens of pounds lighter because of malnutrition. North Koreans born in the late eighties to early nineties are recognizable as they are shorter with heads disproportionately large relative to their bodies with overly thin and frail limbs.

In the early nineties before foreign aid rallied after the collapse of Soviet Union subsidies, society took a McCarthy's turn with many crimes, suicides, and even cannibalism (homeless orphans overtaken by starving adults in remote areas).

Only a totalitarian State could prevent such a society to fall into chaos. Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il have created a cult of personality supported by an obsessive self-surveillance society. North Koreans main activity is reporting on each other. The surveillance starts from the bottom up with "people's group" were everyone reports on everyone else. At dinner if you expressed a mild criticism of the current regime, you could be reported by a neighbor. Soon, after you could be abducted by the police and disappear in a camp forever. Many surveilling police forces are very specialized. If you sleep with your lover, a specialized police force can barge in the middle of the night and ask your lover for its travel permit. If the adequate documents are not produced the person can end up in prison. Another specialized police force watches that people wear the correct garments with the buttons showing support for the regime. Another one checks in that your TV or radio (a few people have electricity for a few moments a day) is set on the proper North Korean program. If you tweaked this equipment to listen to South Korean programs, you can incur severe punishment including death. Another police force makes sure that the portraits of the dictators are clean. If not you are in trouble.

Society is categorized in three classes: 1) the core class representing the professionals and government leaders; 2) the wavering class representing some sort of middle class; and 3) the hostile class representing entertainers, artists, nonproductive elements, and everyone of foreign origins. The hostile class is the one most intensely spied upon by others. Thus, it is most vulnerable to be imprisoned in camps and gulags for no obvious reason.

Propaganda is relentless. The dictator is the benevolent father of the nation. Without his hard work and superior intelligence you would be dying of starvation twice as fast as you are. Everybody else is the enemy. This includes Americans, Chinese, South Koreans, and even Russians and East-Europeans who failed at communism because of their genetic weakness. Capitalism is rotten. In other words, you have "Nothing to Envy."

Meanwhile, reality is stunningly bad. Chapter 7 describes the decrepit health care system. Hospitals lack all basic supplies and remedies. Many operations are conducted without anesthetic by tying the patient to boards. Children come in the hospitals and die because their weakening bodies from starvation can't fend off mild colds or flues that escalate into pneumonia. Chapter 8 describes the conditions in school that are equally horrible. Given that schools are broke, children are required to bring a ration of wood for heating and their own lunch. A teacher/defector observed a tragic pattern. At first, the children stop bringing their ration of wood. Next, the children don't bring their own lunch (and therefore don't eat during the day). And, soon after children do not even attend school.
59 internautes sur 67 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Rare insight 16 décembre 2012
Par Duffman - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
I find North Korea fascinating so have read quite a bit on it, but expect that even a reader with no more background than enjoying the Kim Jong Il puppet in "Team America: World Police" would find this book accessible and worthwhile. Drawing on extensive interviews from those who have escaped North Korea, Remick provides rare, very human insights on life in this bizarre nation, rather than discussing the geopolitical issues in great detail. Having recently re-read "1984", I was struck by how this book shows the stunning parallels between the world Orwell feared could emerge from totalitarianism ideology and an actual 21C society. Little wonder "1984" was the favourite novel of one of the defectors in "Nothing to Envy".
29 internautes sur 33 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Exellent "human" portrait of life in North Korea 10 janvier 2010
Par David Paulson - Publié sur
Format: Relié
I saw Ms. Demick speak at Asia Society on January 7, 2010. I purchased the book, started reading it that night, and stayed up past midnight to finish it the next evening. This an extraordinary work and I could not put it down. I have a graduate degree in East Asian History and have read several books on North Korea, but I can say I learned a lot of new things from this one. There are several other good books on North Korea but I think this book is the most moving and offers the best psychological perspective.

Ms. Demick skillfully weaves together stories of six North Korean refugees into a narrative which portrays life in North Korea from WWII to the present. She tells us about real people, each of whom is different, and helps us understand the interior psychological reality of life inside this closed society. Her descriptions of places, events, and emotions are beautifully crafted and you feel like you are there. As I read the book I felt sad about the terrible conditions under which people live, and also came out with a much better understanding of the motivations of people in North Korea.

These points that the author made are particularly interesting:
- In the 1950's conditions in North Korea were actually better than in China, and some people moved across the border from China to Korea.
- While banning Christianity the regime actually borrowed from it, e.g. referring to the leaders as "father," their savior.
- Like cult members it is very hard for many people to abandon the world view of the regime, even after they leave.
- The most shattering thing to people who break with the regime is the discovery that the outside world, especially China and South Korea, are not living in the same state of misery.
- While still opposing capitalism ideologically, some people, especially women in their 50's, started to practice a form of it just to survive.

I highly recommend this book.
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