Callum is Assistant Editor of The Cardiff Review and Lit Links columnist.

Callum McAllister

The White Book

Han Kang (trans. Deborah Smith)

It wasn’t long after I read Bluets by Maggie Nelson that I came across The White Book. The comparisons are obvious. Both are books that use a writer’s focus on a colour as a jumping-off point for the work, which is a raw, fragmented thing, sectioned into very short passages that seem unconnected to each other. The comparisons end there. In fact, I can’t find much I can compare The White Book too. Among other things, the novel hinges around the death of the narrator’s older sister mere hours into her life and asks a question existential to the narrator — what if her sister had lived, and she had therefore never been born. In three parts, each titled “I”, “She”, and “All Whiteness” Han explores the narrator’s associations with whiteness and death and does so in just such a truly lovely prose.