Sept - 2021 - The Vegetarian - Han Kang

BG 1 - September ‘21 review


The Vegetarian - Han Kang


The Vegetarian is a South Korean three-part novel written by Han Kang and first published in 2007. Based on Han's 1997 short story "The Fruit of My Woman", The Vegetarian is set in modern-day Seoul and tells the story of Yeong-hye, a part-time graphic artist and home-maker, whose decision to stop eating meat after a bloody, nightmarish dream about human cruelty leads to devastating consequences in her personal and familial life.


Published on 30 October 2007 in South Korea by Changbi Publishers, The Vegetarian was received as "very extreme and bizarre" by the South Korean audience. "Mongolian Mark", the second and central part of the novel, was awarded the prestigious Yi Sang Literary Prize.


The Vegetarian is Han's second book to be translated into English. The translation was conducted by the British translator Deborah Smith, and was published in January 2015 in the UK and February 2016 in the US, after which it received international critical acclaim, with critics praising Han's writing style and Smith's translation. In May 2016, it won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. The Vegetarian thus became the first recipient of the award after its reconfiguration in 2015, prior to which it was awarded to an author's body of work rather than a single novel. It is considered as Korean translated literature's biggest win since Kyung-Sook Shin's Please Look After Mom won the closing Man Asian Literary Prize in 2012.


During the discussion, members discussed hangKang's unique writing style, the structure of the novel(In a tryptic format which has three sections of each story from Yeong-hye's husband, Yeong-hye's sister and Yeong-hye's brother in law), the three main narrators(Personality and motif) around the main character, Yeong-hye, vegetarianism, normality, as well as the bizaar scenes in the book. We also talked about artistic motifs, scenes and inspiration in the book as well.