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The Vegetarian (2007)

by Han Kang

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,1102425,315 (3.57)1 / 293
"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 her 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, 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."--Jacket.… (more)
  1. 10
    The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (MissBrangwen)
    MissBrangwen: Although they were written in different periods of time, both texts reminded me of each other because of their dealing with the female experience of confinement.
  2. 21
    Human Acts: A Novel by Kang Han (whitsunweddings)
    whitsunweddings: It's briefly mentioned in The Vegetarian that the Artist is a 5.18 survivor. For those unfamiliar, Han Kang's book on the Gwangju Massacre gives context for the trauma that he - and Korea as a whole - went through.
  3. 10
    Blindness by José Saramago (owen1218)
  4. 00
    The Hole by Pyun Hye-young (sturlington)
  5. 00
    Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: Both books involve a mysterious woman and the perceptions, projections and assumptions about her by others.
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» See also 293 mentions

English (230)  Spanish (3)  Italian (2)  German (1)  Piratical (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  All languages (239)
Showing 1-5 of 230 (next | show all)
It is either in three parts or it is three short stories connected by the characters. I could read it either way.

I loved this for its purity and simplicity. It was like reading a haiku. It is so stripped down as to get close to the essence of so much about being human. And yet in that simplistic style there is so much ambiguity. Essentially a tale of transformation albeit a nihilistic one. Or was it? Was she setting herself free of all that conformity and stifling routine or was she falling down? Was she disintegrating or becoming more herself?

I could imagine the sex scenes on a big screen and the impact that would have. You could read that as the man exploiting the woman but you could also read that as the woman exploiting the man instead. Or, less politically, you could read that as two people on very different trajectories coming together momentarily for completely different reasons and with completely different results. Like I said ambiguity everywhere.

Without, as of yet, reading any other reviews I can imagine that this book will take no prisoners and will polarise. I read it as tale of liberation and transcendence. Could you compare the lives of the two sisters and come to some value judgement about which one was better off? One with the joy of leaving and the other with the desperation of staying? Maybe, maybe not.

Not for the fainthearted and not to be missed. ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
There are parts that are nightmarishly gripping, and the characterization is good, but I found it too surreal and dark. The three chapters were quite disparate and didn’t seem to connect well with each other. Chapter 3 was confusing and rambling, and I wasn’t sure what the author was driving at. ( )
  Misprint | Aug 31, 2020 |
Read 2019. ( )
  sasameyuki | Aug 13, 2020 |
Really grabbed me at the beginning, had a nice arc but completely fizzled at the end. ( )
  luzdelsol | Jul 31, 2020 |
I enjoyed reading this book - there was a fairy-tale-esque air about it that I really liked. But there's something about translations from East Asian languages that I've noticed is kind of similar and it didn't quite work for me here. I can never tell if it's the translator or the actual style of the writing but it wasn't totally for me...I never wanted to put it down though and I'm glad I read it. ( )
  katebrarian | Jul 28, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 230 (next | show all)
The strength of Kang's voice is in her refusal to smoothen the rough edges of her characters - they bare their scars and innermost vulnerabilities and yet don't appear drawing sympathy.
 
What flows through "The Vegetarian" is an urgent need to detach oneself from the constraints of the human body, to transform and possibly transcend its limits completely.
 
“The Vegetarian” is an existential nightmare, as evocative a portrayal of the irrational as I’ve come across in some time.
 
But The Vegetarian isn’t an anti-meat manifesto or an uplifting story of emancipation. Instead, in dreamlike passages punctuated by bursts of startling physical and sexual violence, Kang viscerally explores the limits of what a human brain and body can endure, and the strange beauty that can be found in even the most extreme forms of renunciation.
 
At first, you might eye the title and scan the first innocuous sentence — “Before my wife turned vegetarian, I thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way” — and think that the biggest risk here might be converting to vegetarianism. (I myself converted, again; we’ll see if it lasts.) But there is no end to the horrors that rattle in and out of this ferocious, magnificently death-affirming novel.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Han Kangprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lee, Ki-HyangTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, DeborahTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Wikipedia in English (1)

"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 her 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, 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."--Jacket.

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Book description
Yeong-Bye 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-Bye, seeking a more 'plant-like' existence, commits a shocking act of subversion. As her rebellion manifests in ever more bizarre and frightening forms, Yeong-Bye spirals further and further into her fantasies of abandoning her fleshly prison and becoming - impossibly, ecstatically - a tree.
Haiku summary

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