Nothing to Envy Life Love and Death in North Korea
What if the world imagined by George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-four was real? What if everything around you was black and white except for the red letters on propaganda signs? Where spies like Orwell's Thought Police studied your facial expressions during political rallies to make sure you were sincere in your expressions and your thoughts? If you couldn't turn the dials of your radio away from the government station?
In fact, there is such a place: North Korea, the only country not connected to the Internet by choice. Ruled over by a dictator, visible only in carefully controlled images, it's a mysterious, even sinister country. But it's also a place where 22 million people live, work, and dream of a different life. Journalist Barbara Demick spent a decade covering North Korea's strange politics and regulations. Then one day she met a young woman defector, Mi-ran, who told her about growing up there; about the cinema she used to go to when the country still had electricity, and about the teenage romance which blossomed there. Through Mi-ran's story Demick glimpsed another, more human side of North Korea. In Nothing to Envy, Demick re-traces the life of Mi-ran and of five other North Koreans, taking us into the heart of an elusive society. We see her subjects fall in love, nurture ambitions, and struggle with survival and betrayal. Their stories form a haunting portrait of a bizarre society and the cost it exacts on its citizens.
Barbara Demick is the Beijing bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times. Her previous book is Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood.