The embedded novel is surprisingly engaging, with Ahasuerus' encounters with temple priests, mad antiquarians, cult leaders and so forth making up a series of linked stories which cleverly combine adventure and theology. The latter incorporates ideas from gnostic Christianity, but also still relevant debates about the balance between this-worldly and other-worldly concerns; these ideological aspects sometimes take precedence over any historical accuracy. The framing story is quite a contrast, a psychological detective story full of detail — not of policing, but of society and everyday life in 1970s South Korea.
Newcomers to Yi Mun-yol would probably be better off starting with Our Twisted Hero or The Poet. Son of Man can be read without any involvement in theological questions per se, but the reader needs to understand — or, like Nam, come to understand — how these questions can matter to people.
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