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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Vegetarian

Narrators: Janet Song, Stephen Park


Publisher: Random House Audio

Publication Date: 2/2/2016

Format: Audio

My Rating: 4 Stars

Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye's decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.

A disturbing, yet beautifully composed narrative told in three parts, The Vegetarian is an allegorical novel about modern day South Korea, but also a story of obsession, choice, and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.

Review to follow.

Advance Praise

“A horror story in its depiction of the unknowability of others—of the sudden feeling that you've never actually known someone close to you….Its three-part structure is brilliant, gradually digging deeper and deeper into darker and darker places; the writing is spare and haunting; but perhaps most memorable is its crushing climax, a phantasmagoric yet emotionally true moment that's surely one of the year's most powerful. This is an ingenious, upsetting, and unforgettable novel.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) "[A] spare, spectacular novel...Family dysfunction amid cultural suffocation is presented with elegant precision, transforming readers into complicit voyeurs. Fans of authors as diverse as Mary Karr and Haruki Murakami won't be able to turn away." —Library Journal (starred review) "The book insists on a reader’s attention, with an almost hypnotically serene atmosphere interrupted by surreal images and frighteningly recognizable moments of ordinary despair. Han writes convincingly of the disruptive power of longing and the choice to either embrace or deny it, using details that are nearly fantastical in their strangeness to cut to the heart of the very human experience of discovering that one is no longer content with life as it is. An unusual and mesmerizing novel, gracefully written and deeply disturbing." —Kirkus

New York Times: ‘The Vegetarian,’ a Surreal South Korean Novel

About the Author

Han Kang was born in Gwangju in 1970. Since the age of ten, She grew up in Suyuri, Seoul after her family moved there. She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University. She made her literary debut as a poet by publishing five poems, including “Winter in Seoul”, in the winter issue of Munhak-gwa-sahoe(Literature and Society) in 1993. She began her career as a novelist the next year by winning the 1994 Seoul Shinmun Spring Literary Contest with “Red Anchor”. She published her first short story collection entitled Yeosu(MunjiPublishingCompany) in 1995. She participated in the University of Iowa International Writing Program for three months in 1998 with support from the Arts Council Korea. She currently teach creative wrting at the Seoul Institute of the Arts while writing stories and novels.

Her publications include a short story collection, Fruits of My Woman(2000), Fire Salamander(2012);novel s such as Black Deer(1998), Thy Cold Hand(2002), The Vegetarian(2007), Breath Fighting(2010), and Greek Lessons(2011), Human Acts(2014). 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 Breath Fighting. The Vegetarian has been tranlated and published in English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Japanese, Vietnames and Chinese. Read More

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