THE INNOCENT by Richard Kim


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After the stark parable The Martyred, this is an insistent polemic which is not only a confrontation between two men but a circular inquiry into the moral justification of violence -- ""can we just murder the murderers""? Thus on the one hand there is Colonel Min, a hero-killer who had once sub-machined his way through a Russian garrison in his home town. He is high up in the Korean Any, austere, self-contained, pragmatic, seemingly indurated by necessary deaths (now that of General Mah, an ""abominable criminal""). But Min is left with an unappeasable guilt -- ""there is nothing out there to listen to my story"" -- and a listener as well as a friend and surrogate conscience in Major Lee who tells it. Lee, hoping to salvage Min as well as save lives, argues throughout the book with Min and opposes the ""reasonably decent beasts"" versus the ""evil beasts of war."" The shaded semantics eventually give way to the stress of the situation when Lee is temporarily sent away while Min conducts his coup d'etat. He returns however to witness the gratuitous waste of a ""good, decent"" man who had tried to destroy evil by the only available means to accomplish this end. The Korean War background has again a stentorian realism, the messianic intent of the book is cloquently clear, but in fictional terms -- except for the final chapters when ideas yield to the action of the moment -- the novel is emphatically dialectical.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1968
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin