Within the first chapter of this book, I wasn’t sure I was going to finish it. But because I have a rule that I always give books at least four chapters before I DNF, I decided to stick it out. AND I am so glad I did!
This is what I would call quiet literary fiction. It was the perfect read right after finishing a fast-paced thriller. This book explores so many interesting topics such as religion, existentialism, childhood trauma, language, cultural differences, and more. But when I think about it, I think the most important theme is how we cope with challenges in life caused by situations that are out of our control, and how those challenges have a tendency to alienate people from others — often through no fault of their own. It made me realize how often people are walking around bearing something really hard and doing so quietly.
While this isn’t a book you’re going to see on BookTok, I predict that this is a book people will still be reading 50 years from now. I think this is the kind of book that could be assigned reading in a college-level course because of the wide breadth of philosophical topics it explores.
And, yes, given the title, part of the book does take place in a Greek course. I took three years of Ancient Greek in college, so I loved the parts where they discussed the intricacies of the Greek language, and what it’s like learning a dead language.
Expect this one to be a slow burn at the start, but given that it’s less than 200 pages, it’s over rather quickly.
My first thought after finishing this one is that I want to read it again! I rarely feel that way about a book.
Greek Lessons was enjoyable, but it took me a while to figure out which characters were controlling the narrative at any one time, and that didn't really become clear until quite a way into the book, when the Korean man who teaches Greek and who had lived in Germany for some time, began to interact with the mature woman student in his class, due to a minor accident and his need for help.
Both these characters are dealing with issues, the woman has just lost custody of her 6 year old child, due to an imbalance in power and wealth between the two parents. She was mute as a child and had a special relationship with language, which has lead to her unique desire to learn to read and write in Greek.
The teacher remembers a lost, unrequited love and the mistakes he made. His narrative is addressed to her, there are letters that recount his memories, as well as the discomfort of living in another culture and his desire to return to Korea without his parents.
Ultimately I was a little disappointed, because it lacked the emotive drive that I had encountered before from Han Kang. There were flashes of it, but about halfway, I lost interest and stopped reading for a while. I am glad I persevered as I enjoyed the last 30% when the characters finally have a more intimate encounter and are brought out of themselves, but I was hoping for more, much earlier on.
In my eyes, Han Kang can never do wrong. I’ve read a few of her previous works (The Vegetarian, Human Acts, The White Book), so it’s safe to say that I am quite a fan of hers.
Greek Lessons can be described as a story of loss. It follows a Greek lecturer who lost his sight and his pupil who has lost her voice.
Although I think the writing itself was exceptional and the storyline engaging, I just felt like there was something missing for me. Perhaps because the writing style was a bit more detached and analytical.
Regardless, I will be recommending this to my friends who are particularly interested in abstract works.
Greek Lessons was excellent. I love Kang's writing and I liked the examination of translation. The relationship of the main character and professor was interesting
This was an interesting, pristinely written, yet difficult at times to access novel about trauma, and loss. Two people ==a man who is losing his sight and a woman who has lost her speech--both of whom are both dealing with difficult circumstances--develop a bond that slowly brings them out of their individual isolation. I found it meditative and thoughtful, and fascinating in its changing points of view.
Disappointed that I'm dnf-ing this after how much I enjoyed The Vegetarian.
It was honestly just quite boring, I was having a hard time understanding what was going on, and nothing was motivating me to put in the effort to care.
Sadly this one didn't work for me - I found the writing really nebulous and abstract in a way that prevented me from being engaged in the story. As a reader I always want to have something to ground my stories, and I just didn't find that here.
This was a complex but delightful novel. Kang's works are always so unique, and this book did not disappoint. There was so much nuance and care that went into this book, and I loved it so much.
Greek Lessons focuses on the lives of two characters: a lecturer in Ancient Greek who is losing his sight; and one of his pupils, who has lost the ability to speak. The book explores the nature and limitations of language, but it also navigates motifs of trauma, loss, loneliness, and the search for connection.
Having read The Vegetarian, I was really excited to read Greek Lessons, and I thought it was both poignant and, at times, challenging to decipher-- much like the characters' own journeys toward both communication and being understood. This is definitely a text to approach with an alert mind, as its brevity does not indicate the ease of Kang's writing. Nevertheless, I thought the book was beautifully executed.
There is something distinctive with Han Kang’s writing. She first captured me with The Vegetarian so I knew I had to watch out for her upcoming works.
Greek Lessons did not give a powerful beginning as I was struggling to understand what’s happening. Still, Han Kang managed to capture my attention through her beautiful prose and writing. This made me appreciate the two main characters in the story. Overall, the book explored themes of alienation, identity formation, and relationship building through language.
What is the language to use when I cannot see and one cannot speak? How can you communicate? Do you revive an ancient language only to leave the right meaning on a piece of paper or do you rely on touch only? Does it make the love just a feeling or a necessity to share unspoken and unseen feelings?
How hard it must felt to look at someone with a declining vision and hope to see their lips move to speak words or open your mouth to not make sound when you can say them clearly in your mind. Two characters in this book were living exactly this. They were in so much pain and afraid of losing more yet they could not help each other.. They just sat there in each other presence
The Vegetarian was a tale of uncomfortable coexistence. This one is more of an agreeable, not sufficient but will do in absence of other options, coexistence. I applaud Han Kang to be able create both kind.
Thank you to Net Galley and Random House for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.. A young woman in Seoul takes a Greek language class yet she loses her voice. The Greek teacher is attracted to the young woman and he is slowly losing his sight. They share the pain in their lives which bring them together - one of torn between two cultures and languages, the other one of loss of a mother and custody battle for her son. The storytelling goes between first person and third person. The passages sounded lyrical and beautiful but I found it difficult to follow the story line. I read the author's other book, The Vegetarian, and I felt the same about the writing. I think the thing that drew me in was the interesting cover.
quick and thought-provoking. beautiful and slow. not the banger that The Vegetarian was, but I enjoyed my time reading it.
GREEK LESSONS is an exploration of language and communication, told through the perspectives of a young woman who has lost her ability to speak and her teacher who is losing his ability to see. I picked this volume up because I had loved Kang's previous book, THE VEGETARIAN, in which she deftly conveyed the alienation and anguish that comes when people fail to understand one another. GREEK LESSONS was an opportunity to convey the opposite - the connection and intimacy that can form despite apparent barriers in communication.
Unfortunately, I found it difficult to get through this slim volume. Between sections, Kang shifts perspective between the two protagonists, but I sometimes found it difficult to follow the shifts. The language is poetic and frequently abstract, perhaps to convey a sense of universality - but this contributed to a difficulty in becoming invested in each character and their relationship. I think I would have enjoyed this better had I approached it with the understanding that it was poetic prose rather than long-form fiction.
review here: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CrOghpsv5rZ/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==
Vague. Oh so vague. I think I got what Kang was doing here, but just a few more details would've made the reading experience so much better for me. Ultimately it's about the power of language in its many forms - written and spoken - and the affect it can have on people and their lives. A strong and important message, but the means of getting there was dreamlike and hazy.
This was a strange little book, and I was expecting that, but I wasn’t expecting THIS if you know what I mean. (Not in a good way, sorry.) This book is about two people with limited ability to communicate, and there was lovely imagery and some really beautiful prose, and some interesting pondering about connection and intimacy… but it didn’t really grip me.
It was a little weird towards the end in a winding sort of way but it was never UPSETTING or ALARMING the way the weirdness of The Vegetarian was, and for that reason I enjoyed this far less.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Random House Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for this honest review!!
And Hang Kang does it again! When I first checked the length of the book (a little over 100 pages in ebook format) I admit I was a bit doubtful if she would be able to develop the story within such a limited space. Shame on me for ever doubting!
The book is, just like Hang Kang has already gotten us used to, beautifully written. More than once I thought that I needed to get a physical copy in order to underline and tab all the beautiful passages. The muted tones that accompany the reader throughout the novel perfectly match the personality of the main characters: two isolated souls, adrift in the city that meet thanks to Greek Lessons.
I can only say that after "Human Acts", this is my favorite novel of Hang Kang.
Greek Lessons by Han Kang is a hauntingly beautiful novella that delves deep into themes of identity, loss, and the intricacies of human connection. Known for her poetic prose and poignant storytelling, Kang once again captivates readers with a narrative that lingers in the mind long after the final page.
The story follows a young Korean woman who decides to learn Greek after witnessing the sudden death of her beloved older sister. As she immerses herself in the study of an ancient language, the protagonist embarks on a journey of self-discovery, grappling with questions of grief, memory, and the fragility of life. Kang's exploration of language as a means of healing and transformation is masterful, drawing parallels between the protagonist's pursuit of Greek and her own desire to find solace and understanding in the wake of tragedy.
Kang's prose is delicate and evocative, effortlessly capturing the protagonist's emotional turmoil and inner thoughts. The novella is a testament to Kang's skill as a writer, as she weaves together the personal and the universal in a way that feels profoundly relatable. The exploration of grief and the complexities of familial bonds will resonate deeply with readers who have experienced loss or grappled with their own sense of identity.
One of the standout aspects of Greek Lessons is Kang's ability to create a sense of atmosphere. The vivid descriptions of the Greek landscape and the use of mythology add an ethereal layer to the narrative, immersing the reader in a world that is both familiar and otherworldly. Kang effortlessly transports the reader to the protagonist's internal and external landscapes, inviting them to contemplate the interconnectedness of language, culture, and the human experience.
I admired Han Kang's latest book, "Greek Lessons," an examination of speech, language and the ways we do and don't communicate with those around us, more than I enjoyed it. A young mother who has lost her ability to speak takes evening classes in ancient Greek--the idea of learning a language that is no longer spoken aloud resonates with her. The lessons are taught by a man with his own physical struggle: he is losing his eyesight to the same hereditary condition that robbed his father of vision years earlier. Although they are physically in the same room during classes, Kang keeps these two unnamed protagonists separate for much of the story, which is told largely in flashbacks to the woman's Korean childhood and the man's experiences as an ex-patriot Korean growing up in Germany. When they are finally brought together by an accident late in the book, Kang's characters manage a tenuous connection to each other, born from a mutual sense of loss, alienation and vulnerability. I have to say that I preferred "Intimacies," Katie Kitamura's 2021 novel about similar themes of language, translation and communication; "Greek Lessons" often broke down into fragments of language that made it hard to get hold of and process. But maybe that ultimately was the point--I feel like this would definitely benefit from a second read but I'm not ready to head back to it just yet.
Thank you to NetGalley and to Hogarth for providing me with an ARC of this title in return for my honest review.