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The Vegetarian: A Novel by Han Kang
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The Vegetarian: A Novel (original 2007; edition 2016)

by Han Kang (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,8882285,849 (3.58)1 / 288
"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)
Member:mariel_eliz
Title:The Vegetarian: A Novel
Authors:Han Kang (Author)
Info:Hogarth (2016), Edition: First American Edition, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
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The Vegetarian by Han Kang (2007)

  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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English (223)  Spanish (3)  German (1)  Piratical (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (231)
Showing 1-5 of 223 (next | show all)
The Vegetarian is less about a vegetarian diet and more about suffering and the lack of understanding between people. I wish I could have read this in a book club or something because I feel there are many things I missed while listening to this book. There are some pretty graphic scenes that were hard to listen to because they were so detailed and intense, so I wouldn't read this book while trying to eat (just in case one sneaks up on you).

I probably would have given this book a four if I had read a physical copy rather than as an audiobook. I wasn't a huge fan of the readers, therefore it took me a long time to get into the book. I also think that reading it would have made it easier to identify shifts in narrators. While listening to the book, I found myself confused as to who was talking and what/who they were talking about which made me have to rewind a few times before fully understanding the situation. ( )
  bookworm148 | Jan 2, 2020 |
''Dark woods. No people. The sharp-pointed leaves in the trees, my torn feet. This place, almost remembered, but I'm lost now. Frightened. Cold. Across the frozen ravine, a red barn-like building. Straw matting flapping limp across the door. Roll it up and I'm inside, it's inside. A long bamboo stick strung with great blood-red gashes of meat, there's no end to the meat, and no exit. Blood in my mouth, blood-soaked clothes washed onto my skin.''

A young woman decides to stop eating meat to the dismay of her husband and her parents who refuse to agree to an act that is ''out'' of the established system. The only people who stand by her are her caring sister and her brother-in-law whose motives are extremely controversial. The consequences of her decision will prove a living nightmare in a social circle that discards the different, the ''unnatural''.

“Why, is it such a bad thing to die?”

Han Kang presents a dark, contemporary fable through three POVs corresponding to the three parts of the novel. The first part is narrated by the husband, the second one by her brother-in-law and the final part (the section that makes the story so powerful, in my opinion) is viewed through the reflections of her sister. The young woman is denied a perspective to accentuate her isolation within her social circle that is unable to understand that things have changed. The voices of the three characters are distinct. The husband is a heartless man, her lover is confused and the sister is a compassionate, understanding woman who becomes the sole support to a soul that wants to live by her rules.

“The feeling that she had never really lived in this world caught her by surprise. It was a fact. She had never lived. Even as a child, as far back as she could remember, she had done nothing but endure.”

Kang's writing is beautiful, raw and poetic. Even though the heroine doesn't share her thoughts with us, we come to understand her clearly and I deeply sympathised with her. She wants to love according to her choices, to feel loves, to defy a tyrannical father and a pathetic husband. The story is a violent, realistic allegory that has nothing to do with vegetarianism. I couldn't care less about it. For me, what matters is what comes out of our mouths and not what goes in and pseudo-verbal revolutions do not amaze me. I don't buy, sorry.

Kang weaves a tale that is multilayered and powerful. Sensuality, identity, independence, Art, Psychology, Nature, instinct. These are the ingredients of one of the finest books of our times. Han Kang created a contemporary masterpiece. Yes, it's dark and ''strange'' and often hard to stomach. These are the characteristics of the best books. And this is a formidable story of obsession, independence and womanhood and a worthy winner of the Man Booker International Prize.

''Dreams of murder...
Murderer of murdered...hazy distinctions, boundaries wearing thin. Familiarity bleeds into strangeness, certainty becomes impossible. Only the violence is vivid enough to stick. A sound, the elasticity of the instant when the metal struck the victim's head...the shadow that crumpled and fell gleams cold in the darkness.''
My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com/ ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Nov 28, 2019 |
This book invokes many undesirable emotions.. You try to stay indifferent to the characters. You pity and you empathize. You feel disgusted and you feel anger. You are also helpless. Its about imbalances and an exploration of it. Would not recommend anyone to read it, unless you want to feel sick.

What a trickery, for the writing wins you over, unwilling to hate it.

Translation is brilliant yet not flawless. Many literal translations of words, including the title I suppose. Which I am not sure would have been the best choice. ( )
  vgk7 | Oct 11, 2019 |
Started out strong, got weird, and then I just got kind of bored by the last quarter. Kind of a neat book over all but not something that will stick with me. ( )
  ZJB | Sep 4, 2019 |
I think this book was a little too weird for me to fully appreciate but I still felt it was well worth a read. ( )
  preetibee | Aug 31, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 223 (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.
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Han Kangprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lee, Ki-HyangTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, DeborahTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Before my wife turned vegetarian, I'd always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.
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