Report on the Orphan Master’s Son

by Adam Johnson

Thank for another lovely outing – lovely sunshine and darker discussions about North Korea. (there are spoilers in this discussion so if you haven’t finished you may want to do so first).
I wanted to quickly report back to those unable to attend that we all generally enjoyed the Orphan Master’s Son and expressed disbelief in general over various aspects of a rather baffling dictatorship. As to the book itself, there was some concern over the last section which seemed to creep to an inevitable end and predictable end and disappoints somewhat by not having a twist that one seemed to grasp for in hope. Alas. However, I think all agreed that this was indeed Pulitzer prize material and a substantial but enjoyable read. As Jim pointed out in his written submission there was some concern over the rather buffoonish way in which Kim was presented…however, we are left to simply wonder on that. Many of the threads that we discussed centred on a quest to find an identity as an individual when all the state apparatus and an ever-growing momentum seemed to consign all to the collective. The question of where the limited strands of individualism and rebellion that were represented in the book was seemingly intelligently put into the perspective that for now, it seems that North Korea exists at the behest of the Chinese state and as long as it seeks to avoid having a direct border with an American sponsored regime it will probably continue to exist.

General disbelief was shared about the circumstances where everyone would simply accept the faux Ga as the real thing simply because the Beloved leader declared it so was shared, but I felt compelled to say that after watching far too many documentaries on North Korea as of late (my pitiful Netflix addiction) I had seemingly witnessed real examples of this blind obedience that seems to sink deep to the core of the citizens psyches. Watching people cured of a particular ailment that rendered people blind from birth or early childhood and having their sight restored immediately thanked the benevolence of the Great Leader as they were granted back this sense. Scary.

No one had a good explanation for the thread surrounding the rower and her plight – other than a potential plot device to allow for the story to unfold as it did….thoughts…??

Anyway…thanks all for the discussion.

To this end we chose a book – I accept blame for this one – that is definitely somewhat lighter and hopefully accomplishable but of enjoyment.
The choice (from amongst a wonderfully diverse group of non-fiction suggestions – we have a nice waiting list) :

52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by William Alexander.

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