I Want To Die But I Want To Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Sehee
Have you ever read a book and just not known what to make of it?
I Want To Die But I Want To Eat Tteokbokki has been a tremendously successful book in South Korea, I have been seeing it regularly online & in bookstores.
Marketed as a self-help memoir, 20 year old Baek let’s us in to her experiences & deepest inner thoughts when seeing a psychiatrist to treat dysthymia, a form of chronic depression characterized by persistent low self-esteem, hopelessness & lack of energy or motivation.
She records these sessions & the structure is a mix of transcripts & her reflections. Chapters are short, the book is just over 200 pages so even at points I didn’t find hugely interesting, it was easy to read through quickly.
On the one hand I found this quite insubstantial, she voices her deep rooted anxieties, insecurities, extreme thoughts and self criticism and the psychiatrist responds with little else happening. The prose is perfunctory, you don’t get a sense of her beyond what is presented. There are revelatory moments and passages that are cringeworthy and repetitive.
But. There was a lot that resonated and from the thousands of positive reviews I think many would find relatable parts. In an increasingly comparative society, where we are all bombarded with everyone else’s perfect curated lives, our inner critic can find myriad ways to convince us that we are just not good enough. I found myself nodding furiously, empathising and recognising things that I subconsciously feel articulated really well.
You are either in the room when she is baring her soul or in her mind when she is thinking about life and what is refreshing is that some of the things she obsesses over she accepts are petty and minor to an embarrassing degree, which makes it even more impressive to talk about.
There is most definitely comfort and validation provided, it is commercial as opposed to literary so would appeal to a broad range of readers of all ages.
Perhaps it’s success is a result of how it normalises mental ill health in such a simple way, particularly in a society like South Korea where this has been considered a revolutionary book. C ❤️