Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Quick Notice / The Vegetarian, by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith

About the Book

Yeong-hye and her husband are ordinary people. He is an office worker with moderate ambitions and mild manners; she is an uninspired but dutiful wife. The acceptable flatline of their marriage is interrupted when Yeong-hye, seeking a more 'plant-like' existence, decides to become a vegetarian, prompted by grotesque recurring nightmares. 


In South Korea, where vegetarianism is almost unheard-of and societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye's decision is a shocking act of subversion. Her passive rebellion manifests in ever more bizarre and frightening forms, leading her bland husband to self-justified acts of sexual sadism. His cruelties drive her towards attempted suicide and hospitalisation. She unknowingly captivates her sister's husband, a video artist. She becomes the focus of his increasingly erotic and unhinged artworks, while spiralling further and further into her fantasies of abandoning her fleshly prison and becoming - impossibly, ecstatically - a tree.

Fraught, disturbing and beautiful, The Vegetarian is a novel about modern day South Korea, but also a novel about shame, desire and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.

About the Author

Han Kang was born in Gwangju, and moved to Seoul at the age of ten. She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University. Her writing has won the Yi Sang Literary Prize, the Today's Young Artist Award, and the Korean Literature Novel Award. She currently teaches creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.

About the Translator

Deborah Smith is working on a PhD in Korean literature at the University of London. She has translated The Essayist's Desk by Bae Suah, as well as short stories by Kim Kyung-uk and Kim Ae-ran.

Buying the Book


The Vegetarian is published by Portobello Books in paperback and eBook. The paperback is priced in local currencies. To buy the eBook from the Amazon US site, at USD 11.99, click here

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