The Vegetarian by Han Kang

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Category: Translated Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Author: Han Kang, Translated by Deborah Smith
Cultural: South Korea
I was initially confused as to how I felt about this book. But the more I thought about it, the more I could appreciate it. I didn’t expect it to be as dark, bleak, uncomfortable and unsettling as it was. There is a very dream-like, ethereal quality to the narration and while the premise feels almost like a thriller,

it couldn’t be further from that. The atmosphere of the story actually feels very placid on the surface, while below the layers there’s this undercurrent of tension threatening to break that bubble.

Deborah Smith’s translation is minimalistic, stripped back and effortlessly beautiful. The style of narration is another aspect which I found very unique . You follow the main character through the perspectives of her husband, her brother -in-law and lastly, her sister. And the narrative of each section is sequentially spaced by a few years and in the process you slowly unravel her story. The last section is the most psychological and dense part and it could warrant a re-read just to mull over and unpack the essence of the novel further.
The Vegetarian is so much more than a woman’s choice to give up eating meat and the repercussions that ripple afterward. It’s an exploration of the darker side of human intellect, the blurring of boundaries, of self-loathing and hate and how it manifests.
All in all, The Vegetarian is a deftly handled psychological study executed with such finesse and a very unique piece of literature.

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