The Vegetarian – Han Kang, Powerful & Disturbing

I have been looking forward to reading The Vegetarian since the day it came out, and after reading it, I thought I had a reason to feel impatient. Han Kang studied Korean Literature at university, and her father is also an author. So we can say that she has always lived with literature throughout her life, and it shows. She won the Man Booker International Prize with The Vegetarian in 2016. And after reading this beautiful book, she is on my radar.


The Vegetarian consists of three different and, at the same time, interconnected chapters. Although you can read each chapter in its own right, a great novel emerges when they all come together. Han Kang doesn’t hesitate to be disturbing. More precisely, I did not find too many disturbing items in the book, but people stated that they felt uncomfortable in most of the comments I read. Thus, the author has little to do with the reader’s comfort. That’s precisely why I liked The Vegetarian.

The Vegetarian - Han Kang

I felt similar feelings to what I felt before, again in a Korean author’s book. (Kim Young-Ha – I Have the Right to Destroy Myself) The Vegetarian, which has quite striking scenes, is about people’s dark sides, shame, desires, outlook on life, despair and hopes. Imagine a woman who, one day, was affected by a dream and decided to become a vegetarian. With this decision, everything in her life changes, one by one. However, the reader can only observe this woman by “others”: her husband, her older sister and her sister’s husband. And it is fascinating!

Although I want to write much more about The Vegetarian, I realize that I cannot fit all the thoughts in my mind and the questions that came up with them. So, you see, it is a very controversial book. Since it is pretty short, if you are looking for a book that will end in one sitting and pin you where you sit, don’t miss it. Enjoy!

The Vegetarian - Han Kang

The Vegetarian

A beautiful, unsettling novel about rebellion and taboo, violence and eroticism, and the twisting metamorphosis of a soul.

Before the nightmares began, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary, controlled life. But the dreams invasive images of blood and brutality torture her, driving Yeong-hye to purge her mind and renounce eating meat altogether. It s a small act of independence, but it interrupts her marriage and sets into motion an increasingly grotesque chain of events at home.

As her husband, her brother-in-law and sister each fight to reassert their control, Yeong-hye obsessively defends the choice that s become sacred to her. Soon their attempts turn desperate, subjecting first her mind, and then her body, to ever more intrusive and perverse violations, sending Yeong-hye spiraling into a dangerous, bizarre estrangement, not only from those closest to her, but also from herself.

Celebrated by critics around the world, The Vegetarian is a darkly allegorical, Kafka-esque tale of power, obsession, and one woman s struggle to break free from the violence both without and within her.

New York Times Book Review, “10 Best Books of 2016”
Huffington Post
, The 18 Best Fiction Books of 2016
Economist, Books of the Year 2016″

Han Kang

Han Kang is a South Korean writer. She won the Man Booker International Prize for fiction in 2016 for The Vegetarian, a novel which deals with a woman’s decision to stop eating meat and its devastating consequences. The novel is also one of the first of her books to be translated into English.

The Vegetarian - Han Kang

Han Kang is the daughter of novelist Han Seung-won. She was born in Gwangju and at the age of 10, moved to Suyuri (of which she speaks affectionately in her novel Greek Lessons) in Seoul. She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University. Her brother Han Dong Rim is also a writer. She began her writing career when one of her poems was featured in the winter issue of the quarterly Literature and Society.

She made her official literary debut in the following year when her short story “The Scarlet Anchor” was the winning entry in the daily Seoul Shinmun spring literary contest. Since then, she has gone on to win the Yi Sang Literary Prize (2005), Today’s Young Artist Award, and the Korean Literature Novel Award. As of summer 2013, Han teaches creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts while writing stories and novels and is currently working on her sixth novel. Han has stated that she suffers from migraines, and credits these migraines with “keeping her humble.”

Her publications include a short story collection, Fruits of My Woman (2000), Fire Salamander (2012); novels such as Black Deer (1998), Your Cold Hands (2002), The Vegetarian (2007), Breath Fighting (2010), and Greek Lessons (2011), Human Acts (2014), The White Book (2016). A poem collection, I put the evening in the drawer (2013) was published as well.

She won the 25th Korean Novel Award with the novella, “Baby Buddha” in 1999, the 2000 Today’s Young Artist Award by Culture Ministry Korea, the 2005 YiSang Literary Award with “Mongol Spot”, and the 2010 Dongri Literary Award with The Wind is Blowing. She was awarded Manhae literary prize for Human Acts (2014) and Hwang Sun-won literary award (2015) for the novella While One Snowflake Melts. Her recent novella Farewell won the Kim Yujung Literary Prize.(2018).

The Vegetarian won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. Atti umani (Human Acts) won the 2017 Malaparte Prize in Italy. She was awarded San Clemete Prize for The Vegetarian in spain(2019). She was selected as the fifth writer for the Future Library project in Norway in 2019. “Dear Son, My Beloved,”will be held in the Deichman Library in Oslo until its scheduled publication in 2114.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

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