Concerning education, Nietzsche asked, “How can the individual be integrated into the counterpoint of private and public culture; how can he both sing the melody and simultaneously make it the accompaniment?” At its core, this is the same question that Nonlocal explores. This eloquent and furious novel, on the one hand provides a strange reimagining of the boarding school story (reminiscent of The Confusions of Young Törless and Jakob Von Gunten), while on the other, turns the immigrant or identity narrative on its head.
Nonlocal is the story of Kohlhaas, Korean by birth, but raised in America and therefore an outsider in both societies. His return to South Korean culture, both in Seoul and that which is preserved and managed at the M School for Overseas Koreans in Qingdao, is a jarring experience that leaves him searching for meaning deeper than ethno-nationalism. He’s led towards a powerful negative lesson with the help of Berg, an older and fractured man that shares many of Kohlhaas’s ambiguities.