A friend of mine was kind enough to lend me a copy of Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick. I'd never heard of it before (shamefully) but I've got a long standing fascination with North Korea (who doesnt), so as soon as I got it I sat down to read it.
I've never read anything like it. I couldnt put it down, even though I wanted to at times.
Its written though a set of interviews with a group of North Korean refugees who all now reside in South Korea as naturalised citizens.
Each of these accounts is woven togeather in order to form a composite oral history of what has happened within North Korea over the last 20-30 years. Occasionally the author feeds in statistical and factual information, but its carefully done in order to avoid disrupting the overall flow.
The key players come from a variety of social levels within North Korea, and thus you get to see how brutual the lifestyles of even the most privilaged are within this closed regieme.
Its a country entirely out of time, something which should be impossible in the modern world. Country entirely cut off from the world. Unnetworked, lacking entirely in modern infrastructure and technology, yet still somehow it struggles on.
The harrowing tales of what can only be described as survivors deserve to change the world. It is inexcusable that such a country is allowed to exist, and anyone culpable in its survival is wholly without heart and soul.
This is a book that needs to be read, reread and burned into the minds of as many people as humanly possible.
The world has come so far since the collapse of communism, and I believe is still finding a new equilibirum. Even Cuba has finally started to recognise that reform is necessary. Yet this living anachronism of a country continues to exist.
A beautifully written book, filled with beautiful insights, terrible stories of deprivation, it oozes raw emotion.
I challenge you to read this book and not be moved and changed by it.