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The Vegetarian

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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.

188 pages, Hardcover

First published October 30, 2007

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About the author

Han Kang

45 books4,535 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads database.

소설가 한강

Han Kang is the daughter of novelist Han Seung-won. She was born in Kwangju and at the age of 10, moved to Suyuri (which she speaks of affectionately in her work "Greek Lessons") in Seoul.

She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University. 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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 20,661 reviews
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
October 13, 2020
This book wasn’t a casual read for me. This is deeply personal to my own beliefs. I’m a vegan. This book sung a song that I heard in my marrow; it made me realise so much.

As a vegan I’ve experienced some of the things that I witnessed here. I can relate to it. I’ve lived it. I’ve been called a heretic. I’ve lost friends over it, and experienced much social awkwardness just for my lifestyle choice. I’m not pushy with my beliefs. Sometimes all it takes is a mention of the word “vegetarian” to be received with utter hostility or blankness. This review isn’t about the ethics involved with the diet. That’s not important to this story. What’s important is how people can react to someone different to themselves. The vegetarian in here acts as a metaphor for individual life choices.

“I was convinced that there was more going on here than a simple case of vegetarianism.”

For “the vegetarian,” being different to the world leads to social isolation and feelings of utter despair. Her husband is utterly useless in every regard. He is the sort of man who simply doesn’t deserve a wife. This no equal partnership, but the wife living to serve the man’s needs. It’s all about finding the right people, the accepting people in society. And this comes far too late and in far too a meek form to have any lasting effect on her: it came when she was already lost. The self-destructive behaviour isn’t testimony to a vegetarian diet. I speak from experience, these can be very healthy. It’s an act of rebellion against a society that refused to be warm to someone who didn’t conform.

“the sight of her lying there utterly without resistance, yet armored by the power of her own renunciation, was so intense as to bring tears to his eyes.”

But, this is only the premise of the novel. It’s also about sexual desire, the unwavering power of lust and sheer emotional enthralment. However, it’s not about the body as an object of sexual desire; it’s not about the attractiveness, or the unattractiveness, of the female or male form; that’s just meat: it’s about the power of the individual: it’s about the power of an idealistic free spirit. And this is what drew me to the book. The lust in here is freedom. It is the ability to make one’s own life choice and live in harmony with the rest of the world. Labels don’t matter. Restrictions don’t matter. What matters is the freedom to be who you are and what you are. Whether or not this is a vegetarian, homosexual, transgender, a Buddhist Monk or a Christian isn’t overly important. What matters is choice. The vegetarian in here serves as a metaphor, a rallying cry, for a more accepting world. It’s a brutal reminder of the narrowmindedness that infects this planet towards those that fall through the cracks of society.

Some readers may see the exploration of mental illness, though what I see is mental illness born of sheer social isolation and spiritual depravation. If a person belongs nowhere, and those that are supposed to be closest to her ignore her, then only maladaptive thinking can occur. Only detrimental cognitive functioning will be born. What “the Vegetarian” needed in here was someone to understand her individuality and to respect it. Instead the coldness she receives sends her own a downward spiral of delusional fantasy, very poetic fantasy.

This is a book like no other.


You can connect with me on social media via My Linktree.
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
350 reviews942 followers
August 26, 2017

This is the story of two sisters & their husbands & one woman's tendency toward violent, graphic dreams.

Honestly, I'm not sure what I was supposed to take from this book & I'm not going to pretend for the sake of sounding intelligent or profound that I "got it."

I absolutely did not enjoy reading this, and I'm thankful it was over quickly. The men in this book are repulsive & selfish, and I could not identify with either sister. The lack of straightforward communication between all of the characters was consistently annoying.

And maybe that was the point, I don't know.

Maybe I was supposed to feel irritated throughout the whole novel?

Maybe the outright objectification of both women by every single male they come into contact with was supposed to speak to societal expectations between men & women?

Maybe the lack of agency both women seem to have was supposed to encompass widespread lack of agency among women in general?

Maybe all the weird, sexually graphic imagery was a parallel for the mass produced & detached quality of the porn industry?

Maybe my lack of experience with the culture prevents me from understanding the higher meaning here?

Truly, I don't know.

Regardless of the intended message, or what others seem to have taken from this novel, reading this was frustrating. I don't think the method of delivery worked for me. You win some, you lose some, I guess.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,991 followers
November 22, 2017
Well . . . um . . . yeah . . . so

I guess that was good . . . maybe . . .

Kinda weird . . . I think . . .

Definitely a bit much . . . oh, no doubt . . . but . . .

Poignant perhaps . . . certainly heart strings were tugged . . . however . . .

Confusion! Yes! That's it . . . or, maybe not . . .

100% sure I was 90% moved by being 80% lost while at the same time being 70% disturbed . . .

This book . . . yup . . . it's . . . sure, I guess?
Profile Image for Justin.
284 reviews2,301 followers
March 27, 2017
Honestly, in this case, I'm much more interested in reading other people's reviews of the book rather than writing my own. I just feel like there are so many layers here, so many things that need to be discussed, so many unique interpretations, so many questions.

The first third of The Vegetarian is very Kafka-esque. It has a very Metamorphosis vibe to it. Maybe a little bit of Bird Box to give you a more contemporary example. It was dark. It was weird. It was bleak. It felt like every sentence belonged there. There wasn't any filler or fluff to bulk up the length. I was all in, too. I was waiting to solve the mystery and figure out what the heck was going on.

Then, the second act hits and I realized this book is something completely different than what I expected. I was mildly annoyed at the kind of abrasive shift away from what I wanted the book to be, but once I got over myself and continued to read, I loved the book for completely different reasons. I didn't even know why I liked it really. I kinda felt awkward at times, but then I got over myself again.

The third and final act doesn't answer a lot of questions. It actually leaves you with a lot of questions, but not about the story- more about deeper issues like what it is to be human, innocence, and violence. Nothing about not eating animals. Don't let the title fool you. The Vegetarian takes things to a much deeper level than if killing animals is wrong. I barely remember that being discussed.

Here's the best way I can break this down for you. Ever watched a good foreign film? You know how in a lot of foreign films there aren't millions of dollars invested into CGI and fhe actors and actresses look like real people? The movie is focused on the dialogue and the story rather than looking and sounding amazing. At the end, you feel something inside and you're thinking, man, I didn't know movies could be like this. I haven't seen anything like this before. That's how The Vegetarian is- translated into English from a South Korean author that doesn't look or feel like any book you've read before. You put it down and you're like, man, I didn't know books could be like this. I haven't read anything like this before.

Eat animals or don't. Whatever. But check this one out. It's under 200 pages. Spend a Sunday afternoon with it.
Profile Image for Lala BooksandLala.
500 reviews63.9k followers
March 14, 2020

Book 10 of 30 for my 30 day reading challenge. And now I'm 3 days behind on my challenge because this book was exhausting to get through.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews607 followers
October 27, 2019
Update: Han Kang's book, "The Vegetarian", is the Man Booker international winner

****ZERO spoilers
I'm going to share my experience....and hope to find other readers to discuss this book with later.

I couldn't 'not' read this in anything less than one sitting.
If I keep thinking about this book, not only will I have a knot in my stomach as I do now...but I just might find myself crying my eyes out!

I haven't felt so many intense emotions from a book in a long time.
Zillions of thoughts flooded my mind from when our daughter was anorexic. At age 9, Katy came home from school one day and said, "I no longer eat meat".... which was just the beginning of her food eliminations.
This book goes beyond anything I've ever read on the topic of eating disorders...(there's more....exploring a range of themes)

The writing is MASTERFUL...with many gorgeous passages.
I'm not sure this book is for everyone....but if you think you can handle minimal
disturbing abuse and horror images...there is enough 'meat' (pun), in this book to keep the cerebral brain doing somersaults for months....leaving behind many questions to think about.

*......A tidbit which might be useful information for those who read this.
"A Mongolian mark is a bluish birthmark, very common among infants of color though uncommon among Caucasian infants, that typically disappears by the time a child is around five". Having this information would have 'helped' me feel less confused when I first started reading part II .
The Vegetarian", is a novel of three-linked novellas. POWERFUL!!

Thank You Crown Publishing, Netgalley, and Han Kang....( I think *Kang* is kinda a genius)
Profile Image for Felice Laverne.
Author 1 book3,229 followers
February 12, 2020
“Though the ostensible reason for her not wanting Yeong-hye to be discharged, the reason that she gave the doctor, was this worry about a possible relapse, now she was able to admit to herself what had really been going on. She was no longer able to cope with all that her sister reminded her of. She’d been unable to forgive her for soaring alone over a boundary she herself could never bring herself to cross, unable to forgive that magnificent irresponsibility that had enabled Yeong-hye to shuck off social constraints and leave her behind, still a prisoner. And before Yeong-hye had broken those bars, she’d never even known they were there…”

Wow, what can I say about this one except “wow?”

The Vegetarian by Han Kang was everything that we love about Korean and Japanese literature and art—and that’s exactly what this work was: art. Here you will find what we have come to know, to love and to expect from authors in this genre who write in this vein: the vibrancy, the subtle magical realism, the commanding usage of words and the elusive, sinister nature that is unique to these works—all embedded within an established culture of history and mores that has survived and developed for millennia longer than most others.

The Vegetarian read with a delicious ominousness that was as subtle as a shadow, like a breath at your neck. It was that subtly that made the read so taunt and disquieting, and there was a strange, magical realism to it that almost read like Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 (no shock there, as they both seem to have been influenced by Kafka). As a work of short literary form (it’s under 200 pages), it was unusual, among other reasons, in that it was told from three different perspectives with almost no perspective from the novel’s subject, Yeong-hye. We see how her vegetarianism, which later leads into a kind of manic catatonia, affects first her callous and at times sexually abusive husband, then her brother-in-law who becomes completely enthralled with her sexually because of her Mongolian mark, and her sister who is the last one standing when Yeong-hye’s psyche begins to peel away.

In addition to the serious topics that The Vegetarian brushed up against: the effect of cultural mores on women, body image, conformism, familial ties and abuse, and, of course, mental illness that ultimately culminated in a way that I could never reveal without spoiling it for you—this was also a tale of family dysfunction. It was a tale of familial ties that were severed painfully, of violent confrontations and realizations, of physical and emotional starvation, and a parable about the woman, the vegetarian, at the center of it all.

The Vegetarian was sensual, and it meandered toward its climax in a way that was both unsettling and prophetic. It was allegory elevated to the highest level of art, raised to the level of surrealism. Honestly, this may or may not work for everyone. You have to suspend your past experiences with reading (outside of this genre) in order to enjoy this one. That much is, honestly, a must. The change in tenses and POVs worked well. And even this technique, this simple process of sentence writing that we learn in grade school, was elevated: the tenses of sentences shifted noticeably, particularly the closer that it came to dénouement, a jolting but brilliant allusion to this descent into mental illness and personal violence, which added to the mystical element of this novel.

Han Kang produced a work, her first to be seen here in the U.S., that was so unhinged, so mystifying, that at times it would slither from your grasp. I had to sit and reflect on several of the passages for a few minutes—not because they were ill-written, but because they were both profound and often just outside of my immediate mental grasp, and that was a wonderful thing. It was an effect that I look for in modern-day writing—that disquietingly ungraspable moment.

Yeong-hye’s voice, which came to her while she was suspended in that halfway state between sleep and wakefulness, was low and warm at first, then innocent like that of a young child, but the last part was mangled, a distorted animal sound. Her eyes snapped open in fright, and she was stung by a waking hatred the likes of which she’d never felt before, before being thrown back into sleep. This time she was standing in from of the bathroom mirror. In the reflection, blood was trickling from her left eye. She quickly reached up to wipe the blood away, but somehow her reflection in the mirror didn’t move an inch, only stood there, blood running from a staring eye.

The Vegetarian was unconventional. It broke away from the molds that we find ourselves encumbered in with typical fiction. Here you will not find the typical “rising action, climax, falling action” formula that we’ve become so accustomed to, that we’ve grown to expect and to lean into, though we know how it’ll all end in the end. There may or may not have been some issues with translation, but if there were, it wasn't overtly noticeable to me. I found the translation obstacles, where applicable, to be mild at worst. I would recommend this read to anyone who's ready to move away from the conventional, and to anyone already familiar or ready to become familiar with this genre of writing. Honestly, this read left me a little speechless, so you’ll have to excuse the less-than-customary word count here. Definitely, take that as a compliment in the highest sense. 5 stars. *****


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Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.6k followers
March 22, 2023
I am my own worst enemy.

I am the one who eats all the cookies, for example, preventing myself from having cookies to eat. I am the one who accidentally stays up until the wee hours of the morning because I suddenly need to research that mass-hysteria-in-medieval-France thing where no one could stop laughing.

And most pertinently, I am the one who said “review and rating to come” on this book, assuming future me would have figured out my feelings.

Spoiler alert: Future me has not figured out anything.

So here we are. Hoping to write ourselves into an opinion.

Here’s what I’ve got:
- this is very weird.
- But a good kind of weird, where it makes you think, and you notice things you otherwise may not have because you’re like “truly what is going on I have to figure this out.”
- Once you start doing that, this is incredibly thematically rich.
- Here are some themes I noticed and liked:
- Parallels between vegetarianism and sexual assault
- Relatedly, misogyny and the treatment of women, tied to nature and animals
- The perception of what is ordinary versus what is extraordinary
- Wife swap!!!

I’ve been in very much a quantity over quality mood lately when it comes to reading, prioritizing getting to a book a day over reading books that will slow down and make me think.

And this was very refreshing.

Bottom line: I have decided - four stars!!!


i will need to reflect on this book for 3-5 months before i say a single word about it.

review to come / WHO KNOWS THE RATING


don't mind me, just doing some chill, relaxed reading by picking up a book people have called "terrifying" and "unhinged"
Profile Image for Pakinam Mahmoud.
813 reviews3,495 followers
August 14, 2023
رواية مجنونة ..رواية مش عادية.. بس إوعي تفتكر إنك حتقرأ رواية عن واحدة قررت تبقي نباتية..
الرواية عن ست متجوزة رجل شايفها سلبية.. شايفها عادية ..عاوزها تخدمه وبس..كان بيقول عليها
"كانت حقاً أكثر أمرأة عادية في العالم!"

وزي ما كان جوزها مش شايفها ولا حاسس بيها أبوها كمان كان بيعاملها معاملة قاسية جداً في طفولتها وكانت هي دايماً مستسلمة وساكتة..
"كنت مجبرة علي الصمت خلف باب بلا مقبض.."

الرواية فكرتني بقصة نعاس لموراكامي..الست اللي من جواها ناقصها حاجات كتيير فمبقيتش تنام أما هنا في الرواية عبرت عن رفضها لحياتها بالتوقف عن أكل اللحوم..
وزي ما غريغور أهله رفضوه في رواية التحول لكافكا هنا كمان أهلها عاملوها بمنتهي القسوة وأهملوها تماما لما تعبت لمجرد إنها أخذت قرار مختلف عن اللي هم عاوزينه..
"انظري إلي نفسك توقفي عن أكل اللحوم وسوف يلتهمك الناس في هذا العالم!"

الرواية مقسمة إلي ثلاث أجزاء الجزء التاني فيها أقل ما يقال عنه أنه عبقري..إزاي تطلق العنان لنفسك و لموهبتك ولمشاعرك ..ازاي تتحرر من كل القيود و تعمل اللي انت عاوزه ومش 'اللي المفروض تعمله'..

رواية حقيقي مجنونة ومختلفة عن أي حاجة قريتها قبل كدة..الترجمة كمان كانت كويسة جداً..
أنا مش بكتب ريڤيوهات طويلة إلا مع الروايات المميزة جداً او الروايات اللي بتلمس فيا حاجة شخصية..
الرواية هنا فيها الاتنين:)

" يجب أن أروي جسدي يا شقيقتي الكبري..أنا لا أحتاج إلي مثل هذا الطعام..أحتاج إلي الماء فحسب.."
Profile Image for Candi.
623 reviews4,716 followers
March 9, 2021
“It’s your body, you can treat it however you please. The only area where you’re free to do just as you like. And even that doesn’t turn out how you wanted.”

I don’t even know how to begin describing this novel. I’m guessing that in a year’s time or more, it will still hold true that this was one of the most haunting, unsettling and tragic novels I’ve read in a long time. For a slim book, there’s a great deal to mull over and discuss. There are many different ways of looking at this besides what meets the eye. Don’t let the title fool you. This isn’t simply a book about a woman that renounces meat and animal by-products. It’s a story about autonomy over one’s body and one’s life and the repercussions of a lack thereof. It probes the harmful ramifications of patriarchal societies, violence, and victimization. It explores mental illness. I’m not even touching on everything here. This is some heavy stuff!

“Everything starts to feel unfamiliar. As if I’ve come up to the back of something. Shut up behind a door without a handle. Perhaps I’m only now coming face-to-face with the thing that has always been here. It’s dark. Everything is being snuffed out in the pitch-black darkness.”

The subject of this novel is Yeong-hye. She’s not actually given a voice here except for a few very brief passages, as in the quote above, when she recounts the nightmares that led her to turn to vegetarianism. Instead, the book is split into three parts giving the perspectives of her husband, her brother-in-law, and eventually her sister. Not for one second did I ever feel any sympathy for the men. That’s not to say that I wasn’t wholly absorbed by the first two sections, because I surely was. What ultimately made the story for me, however, was the last section when we heard from In-hye, the sister. This was truly poignant and thought provoking. What makes one person suffer from mental illness while another does not? I’ve often considered that the boundary between a diagnosed illness versus a non-diagnosis can be a bit blurred at times. What about responsibility to another – how does that affect us psychologically? How do we protect those we love?

“If it hadn’t been for Ji-woo—if it hadn’t been for the sense of responsibility she felt toward him—perhaps she too might have relinquished her grip on that thread.”

I ended up with more questions by the time I turned the last page. I’ve had experience with a close loved one with a mental illness. As a child it’s scary and disconcerting. For me personally it heavily influenced my development as an adolescent and young adult. It affected many of my choices. I often think about the effects of mental illness on the functioning of a family. Han Kang has made me think about it that much more. What a powerful, beautiful torment of a book this was.

“Life is such a strange thing… Even after certain things have happened to them, no matter how awful the experience, people still go on eating and drinking, going to the toilet and washing themselves - living, in other words. And sometimes they even laugh out loud.”
Profile Image for فايز غازي Fayez Ghazi .
Author 2 books3,915 followers
May 30, 2023
- اولاً لا بد من الإشادة بلغة محمود عبد الغفار الرائعة في الترجمة، لولا بعض الاخطاء الإملائية والنحوية البسيطة.

- اعتقد اولاً اننا لا يمكننا قراءة هذه الرواية بالسببية، بمعنى ما السبب الذي جعلها نباتية، لأن هذا غير مهم اطلاقاً، فتحولها الى نباتية هو موقف تجسّد بالإمتناع عن اكل اللحوم!

- الدافع في هذه الرواية هو الخوف، فهذه الفتاة التي عاشت في كنف اهل غير متفهمين، وكانت تتحمل الضرب، وتزوجت بإنسان تافه كانت خادمته لخمس سنوات، هذه المخلوقة الضعيفة راكمت الخوف فوق الخوف، والإنعزال فوق الإنعزال والخضوع والدونية حتى ضاقت نفسها بجسدها فبدأ الحلم وبدأت محاولات التخلص منه بالإمتناع عن اللحوم!

- القصة تنقسم لثلاثة اقسام، الجزء الاول والأخير يشكلان البداية والنهاية، ورغم سلاستهما الا انهما لا يقارنان بإبداع الجزء الثاني

- يتدرج الجزء الأول من زواج، فحياة رتيبة (5 سنوات) ثم الحلم، فالتحول لنباتية ورمي اللحوم و"إحراج" الزوج في المناسبات، فشكواه لأهلها، فمحاولة اهلها اجبارها على اللحم فالضرب فمحاولة الانتحار... ويبدأ الجزء الثالث بنقلها لمصحة الأمراض النفسية، فعلاجها فإمتناعها عن العلاج الى اضمحلالها واقترابها مما تهوى الا وهو الموت والتوحد مع الطبيعة.. هذا الجزء (الثالث) اتى على لسان الأخت الكبرى التي ربطت فقرات الرواية ببعضها معطية الأبعاد النفسية للنصوص التي مرّت، بإنتقال سلس ما بين الماضي (فلاش باك) والحاضر وصولاً الى المستقبل في آخر سطور الرواية.

- الجزء الثاني، إبداع رائع، دمج التصوير والرسم والإيروتيك اتى بتناغم ما بعده تناغم، فالبناء الهائل حول مصدر الهام "تافه" او عادي كالبقعة المنغولية اتى بشكل لا يوصف، كما ان الوصف الذي تقلّب بين فن بحت، الى فن ورغبة، الى رغبة وانتهاء بالجنس من اجل الفن كان بديعاً. وعلى الضفة الأخرى فإن وجود الأخت الصغرى في قلب الحدث شحن هذا الجزء بأبعادٍ اخلاقية ونفسية كثيرة. كما ان الكاتبة وبطريقة غير مباشرة لم تجعل من هذا الحدث سبباً لإنهيار الأخت الصغرى بل كان الشيئ الوحيد الذي فعلته بإرادتها منذ بداية الرواية الى آخرها، كان قرارها.. رغم ما سببه من انهيار العالم حول اختها الكبرى!

- "هل الموت امر سيئ" سؤال سألته الأخت الصغرى في النهاية، ويبدو انه كان الهدف المنشود....
Profile Image for Megan Hoffman.
174 reviews290 followers
February 24, 2016
Han Kang's novel, 'The Vegetarian,' tells the story of Yeong-hye. Having recently had a dream that has convinced her to cease eating any meat whatsoever, and finds that such a decision is affect nearly all aspects of her life. Her family is trying to force her to eat meat, the relationships that once surrounded her are falling apart, and everyone is questioning whether she is insane. The thing is, she just might be losing her mind - and all because of a dream.

This book isn't super long. In fact, it reads like a novella, so it's easy to consume and fast paced enough that about the time you feel really into it, it's over. It's not a bad thing though because there is a LOT packed into this little story. Despite being a story that is explicitly about Yeong-hye, it is actually never told directly from her perspective. Instead, we are give about 60 pages a piece from her husband, her brother-in-law, and her sister. The oddest part about this formatting is, unlike many book of this type, the perspectives do not overlap. Some take place at the time of Yeong-hye's decision to become a vegetarian, and others take place years after the fact.

To be totally honest, this book is weird. It might actually be the weirdest book I've ever read. But there's still something beautiful about it. It's an honest look at mental illness and how it affects not only that individual, but also everyone that cares about them. For those who have dealt with abuse, it's not as cut and dry to understand why mental illness affects them. Instead, it's about learning how to cope and manage, but also when to let go of those who hold you back.

As I mentioned before, this book is a roller coaster ride, especially in the beginning. I sat down to read this expecting to read for maybe 20 minutes later but looked at the clock an hour later and realized that I was so involved in the story that I didn't want to stop reading. It's sad, depressing, at times fun, but most of all it's probably the most thought-provoking novel I have ever read.

My rating: I give it 3 stars not because I didn't like it or I don't think you should read it, but because I found the pacing of the book to be distracting. It starts off energetic, fast-paced, and almost manic. During the middle, it takes a turn and reads more as a desperate plea for approval or attention. And in the end, it's detailed, slower, and tired. I don't know whether this was an intentional decision, but for me as a reader it meant that every 60 pages or so I was forced to feel like I was adjusting to a new writing style.

Who should read it?: If you enjoy international novels, this is an excellent choice. I have been told that those who have been deeply affected by the decision to become a vegetarian have loved this story. Or anyone who wants to read something that is so unlike anything else out there, that there is no way they will forget this book.

I was provided with a free copy of this book in order to conduct this review.

Profile Image for Cecily.
1,137 reviews4,180 followers
December 3, 2021
How to review this cold, voyeuristic, sexy, ugly, beautiful, disturbing novella?
The single story is told in three sections, from three points of view - in three different genres: from a domestic drama of a marriage suddenly under strain, through erotica, to madness and borderline magical-realism. But we never hear from the subject herself.

At the end… I felt adrift, rather than rooted. Intrigued, moved, and pleasantly bemused.

Triggers: This book is probably unusable for those in the depths of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or suicidal ideation. It’s not really about vegetarianism.

1. The Vegetarian

It starts simply: Yeong-hye is a young South Korean woman. She has been married for a few years to Mr Cheong, who narrates the first part. He is very aware of her ordinariness; it’s part of what made her suitable.

If there wasn’t any special attraction, nor did any particular drawbacks present themselves, and therefore there was no reason for the two of us not to get married.

When Yeong-hye has her first vivid and disturbing dream about butchered animals, she becomes a vegetarian.

Image: Abattoir (Source.)

I ate too much meat. The lives of the animals I ate have all lodged there.” [on her chest]

This change is shocking and disgusting to Mr Cheong, shameful in front of his colleagues, and anathema to her traditional family. Conformity is required, individualism reviled.

The nearest Mr Cheong comes to demonstrating any passion is when he describes, in almost fetishistic terms, how delicious his wife's meat-based cooking used to be. Yeong-hye may be becoming anorexic or delusional, but he shows neither sympathy nor curiosity - just anger and resentment at the effect on him.

2. Mongolian Mark

(A Mongolian mark is a type of grey birth mark at the base of the spine, that usually disappears by age 5 and almost always before puberty.)

The middle section opens at a dance show with an ox-blood coloured curtain.
The carnality, the pure sensuality of this image, was nothing short of monstrous.

It focuses on the unnamed husband of Yeong-hye’s sister. He’s an unsuccessful video artist, emasculated by his wife’s success: “their only shared business was their child”.

His dramatic inspiration for a new artwork is personal, passionate, and transgressive. The story transmogrifies into artistic erotica, with undertones of paedophilic desires.

Image: “Magnolia”, by Cecilia Paredes (Source.)

The monochrome world, entirely devoid of the colours he was now experiencing, had had a calmness that was beautiful in its way… All of his energy was taken up in trying to cope with the excitement, the heightened awareness of living in the present moment.

3. Flaming Trees

She had merely absorbed all her suffering inside her.

The final section, narrated by In-hye (Yeong-hye’s older sister), mostly in the present tense, is a darker exploration of change, humanity, family ties, duty, and madness.

Soon now, words and thoughts will disappear.

Is she like Kafka's The Hunger Artist (see my review HERE) or more like the girl in one of the stories in Daisy Johnson's Fen (see my review HERE)?

Image: Woman doing handstand in a forest. (Source.)

Men versus sisters

Hand, foot, tongue, gaze, all weapons from which nothing is safe.

This felt like a book written by a man until part way into the middle section. I think that’s because it was told by/from male points of view, one of them judgemental, controlling, and cold, and both objectifying women.

It was a body that made one want to rest one’s gaze quietly upon it.

The final section by In-hye was different. Although the story is ostensibly about Yeong-hye, the relationship between the sisters is at the heart of it all.

• One is serene, self-contained, and possibly brave:
She radiated energy, like a tree that grows in the wilderness, denuded and solitary.
• The other is successful, dutiful, conventional:
The kind of woman whose goodness is oppressive”.
Both have deep inner strength, and they are tied by blood and by the shared suffix of their names (whereas the men are Mr Cheong and... who knows what In-hye's husband is called?).

• How much does one owe family - and what happens when there are conflicting needs?
• What’s the toll of guilt, betrayal, and jealousy?
• To what extent can one break free of genes and expectations, and at what cost?


The dreams, described in short italic passages, involve blood, flesh, and eyes.
Blood and eyes recur throughout.
As do breasts, birds, and trees.
I felt there was more to these symbols than the obvious, but I'm not sure what.


• “The kiss was a palimpsest of memories.”

• “Dreams overlaid with dreams, a palimpsest of horror.”

• “With my round breasts, I’m okay… So why do they keep on shrinking?... Why are my edges all sharpening - what am I going to gouge?”

• “It was impossible to tell whether or not he was pleased to see his father.” Of a five-year old. Tragic.

• “As if there were a wire linking her tongue with his body, every time that little pink tongue darted out [licking shaved ice] he found himself flinching as though from an electric shock.”

• “This was the body of a beautiful young woman… yet it was a body from which all the desire had been eliminated…. What she had renounced was the very life that her body represented. The sunlight that came splintering through the wide window… and the beauty of that body… was also ceaselessly splintering.”

• “Her calm acceptance… made her seem to him something sacred. Whether human, animal or plant, she could not be called a ‘person’.”

• “The brush was cold, and the sensation was ticklish yet numbing, a persistent, effectual caress.”

• “She’d been unable to forgive her for soaring alone over a boundary she herself could never bring herself to cross,”

• “She had never lived… she had done nothing but endure… Her life was no more than a ghostly pageant of exhausted endurance, no more real than a television drama.”

• “Her voice had no weight… neither gloomy nor absent-minded… the quiet tone of someone who didn’t belong anywhere, someone who had passed into a border area between states of being.”

Image: “Her bare feet kissing the tiles.” (Source.)

Notes about the original Korean novella

The three parts were originally published separately. I think a slightly firmer delineation of the parts is probably helpful. The disconcerting and dramatic change of viewpoint and genre is part of the appeal, and what makes this so unusual.

There's also controversy about the English translation, as highlighted in Nocturnalux 's comment below, and discussed in knowledgeable detail, with links to other articles, in the comments of Paul's review.

Is the English version I read barely recognisable version of the original, or are the criticisms themselves rooted in racist stereotypes?

Another good article, courtesy of Chinook's review is this one. It picks out specific examples of clearcut "mistakes". But it concludes:
"And ultimately, Smith carried out perhaps the most important task of all: She successfully introduced a work of literature to people who might otherwise never have had a chance to read it. In that regard, Smith was faithful to the end."
I'm glad I was able to read it.
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,101 reviews7,201 followers
July 17, 2023
The author makes a point of starting the story by telling us it’s about an ordinary Korean couple. The man, recognizing that he is nothing special, marries a woman whom he calls “the most run-of-the-mill woman in the world.”

The young woman, living in Seoul, starts having nightmares full of blood and hanging meat. She decides to become a vegetarian. Her husband is irate and even recruits her family to help him get her to start eating and cooking meat again.


That pressure and the continuing nightmares push her further toward an almost plant-like existence. She takes her clothes off to get sun and runs into the forest and stands in the rain lie a tree. She hardly sleeps; she becomes anorexic and skeletal. Her brother-in-law abuses her.

We learn about her abusive father, and maybe some of her issues had roots in that abuse.

There is good writing, such as this passage about her brother-in-law:

“…even after they were married he still looked perpetually worn out. He was always busy with his own things, and during what little time he did spend at home he looked more like a traveler putting up there for a night than a man in his own home. His silence had the heavy mass of rock and the tenacious resistance of rubber, particularly when his art wasn’t going well.


The author (b. 1970) has written more than 20 books of which a half-dozen appear to have been translated into English. This book, The Vegetarian, won the 2016 Man Booker prize for translated novels. It was also picked as one of the 10 Best Books of 2016 by the NY Times Book Review. I also enjoyed reading her The White Book, mostly poems, which was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker prize.

Photo of Seoul from beltandroad.news
The author from nytimes.com

[Spoiler hidden 12/1/22; revised 7/16/23]
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
940 reviews14k followers
July 16, 2016
I gave myself 24 hours to think over this before rating it, but I still don't know... i'm left off very confused... This is a book about characters whose backstories and full character arcs aren't really explored, so it was jarring to read a character-heavy book whose main focus is on a woman that we never even see the perspective of. Maybe i'm missing something, and i'm horrified that I did because everyone else loves this book, but this just read very strangely to me. By the end I understood the characters' motives for doing everything they did but I was never invested into them, which makes me sad because this is a book highly centered around psychological issues and female autonomy and both of those things are usually fascinating to me. If anyone felt the same way I did, what did you think was missing? I'm just not quite sure how to put into words what about this felt not amazing
Profile Image for Adina .
891 reviews3,543 followers
July 15, 2020
“She was no longer able to cope with all that her sister reminded her of. She'd been unable to forgive her for soaring alone over a boundary she herself could never bring herself to cross, unable to forgive that magnificent irresponsibility that had enabled Yeong-hye to shuck off social constraints and leave her behind, still a prisoner. And before Yeong-hye had broken those bars, she'd never even known they were there.”

For a small book it took me a lot of time to finish. The reason is that I wanted to absorb every word while, in the same time, I had to stop periodically because the emotional loading that my heart accumulated became too much.

Korean people are close to my heart and with every year that I go there and meet my business partners I believe I understand them more. The experience I have there made me feel deeply about this novel. It is tough and not always pleasant to be Korean, the traditions and the society puts pressure on each individual, especially on women, to comply and be responsible.

During the conversation I had with various Koreans, I understood there still is the expectation that the woman should follow the men’s orders and to put the well-being of the family above hers, a theme that was present in this novel

Another cultural shock that I had was about the education in Korea. A partner told me that he could not go on holiday with his family for the past 2-3 years because his child was in high-school and had to study for university, for an exam which will be only in another year. It seems that the competition there is so high and if the young Koreans want to get to a good university (a must if striving for a decent life) they need to study non-stop, without any fun in their life. Another partner was very preoccupied to register his child into a good kindergarten because if they missed that chance the child’s life could be a failure. They even have exams to be admitted to kindergarten. Can you imagine the pressure the children have to face from such an early age?… no wonder they feel trapped when they get older. I read an article in Economist about this problem which seems to be spread in many Asian countries.

I read reviews that the book is not realistic… it is wrong. It is very realistic and I can see it happen, including the craze with the vegetarianism.

“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. She had believed in her own inherent goodness, her humanity, and lived accordingly, never causing anyone harm. Her devotion to doing things the right way had been unflagging, all her successes had depended on it, and she would have gone on like that indefinitely. She didn't understand why, but faced with those decaying buildings and straggling grasses, she was nothing but a child who had never lived.”

What a better moment to read this than in Seoul while eating lots of Korean meat.
Profile Image for Ariel.
301 reviews64.1k followers
December 28, 2019
HUH. *nods head slowly* I started this a few years ago, put it down with every intention to return, and finally did (in audiobook form). I left this feeling that I hadn't connected to the characters or story very much, but finding the world that was built and the ideas presented really interesting. I left it not wanting necessarily to recommend it to anyone but certainly wanting to write an essay about it to unpack what happened. HUH.
Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews964 followers
January 14, 2019
A disturbing novel about anorexia, patriarchy, and abuse, The Vegetarian explores the emotional toll of violence against women. The novel follows Yeong-hye, a young South Korean woman trapped in a loveless marriage, as she stops eating meat and starts to starve herself and rebel against her callous family after having a blood-soaked nightmare. Yeong-hye’s behavior grows increasingly erratic and self-destructive across the novel’s three equal-length parts, in turn narrated from the perspectives of her husband, brother-in-law, and sister. The narration robs Yeong-hye of her voice and forces readers to watch her plight from a distance, through the viewpoints of those who can’t understand her; a strong sense of alienation pervades the book, in spite of the translator’s poetic prose. The story takes several unsettling and bizarre turns, and the men in the protagonist’s life are monstrous, void of emotion and empathy. The novel feels a bit uneven, with a weak last third and some pacing issues, but Han Kang has crafted an unforgettable plot, if nothing else.
Profile Image for Ruby Granger.
Author 3 books46.9k followers
July 6, 2020
Before reading this, I was warned that it was weird. And yes, it kind of was. But not in a surreal way. It was more that the writing was so raw, subversive and undulating that it became weird in its honesty.

Either way, one of the best books I've read this year.
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews116k followers
May 19, 2017
The Vegetarian is a short, sad, and simple read that still managed to leave an impression on me. It does its job of getting readers to reflect on culture and our control of women’s bodies. However, it doesn’t provide anything new to the theme - I think having the story in the POV of Yeong-Hye rather than the other unlikable characters would have helped add more nuance. I don’t particularly care for the gross men, and we have plenty of stories that are about the male gaze already. It would have been nice to truly see the in-depth struggle of the woman herself.
Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,623 followers
October 26, 2020
She's turned vegetarian... now what a ridiculous b!+ch!

Riveting adult fiction. What do I mean by "adult"? In middle school you would not have understood it; in high school you would have hated it. But adults acting as children, having crises in front of their community at high noon? Yeah. I've been indoctrinated.

Han Kang has a taut, very animalistic tale of madness and marriage to share with us. So... Let's eat!
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,320 followers
August 5, 2019
I read The Vegetarian during a day-long trip on buses, trains and planes, starting at about 8 o'clock in the morning, finishing when the plane touched down an hour late at my final destination.

Readers, be warned: this experiment should not necessarily be repeated, it may cause utter distress and embarrassment.

8 o'clock, inner city bus in a major German city:

"Before my wife turned vegetarian, I'd always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way."

I laugh out loud, and gather some surprised looks in the "pre-morning-coffee" crowd on the bus. My reaction is somewhat inappropriate, both with regards to my setting and to the fact that this book takes a turn that is NO LAUGHING MATTER! Before buying a coffee-to-go on my first train ride of the day, I already choke on my own laughter, realising that the first of the different narrators is one of the most selfish, uncaring, brutal male prototypes imaginable, and the story is developed from his point of view, which is a magnificent stylistic feature.

10 o'clock, crammed local train moving into the conservative countryside:

While I read about an atrocious case of physical abuse in the name of patriarchal power, leading to mental breakdown as well as family dissolution, shivering at the passive fictional bystanders watching the violence in voyeuristic fascination, the train prepares for its final station and a group of Asian tourists are lining up in the corridor to leave the train. An elderly Bavarian man tells his wife and grandchild that there is no use getting off their seats as long as (enter derogatory word for Japanese in German which I still am too angry to repeat) are clogging the train. Fuelled by the effect of patriarchal superiority complex I read about just a second earlier, and by the fact that the Asian setting of the novel makes it somehow closer to the situation I am experiencing in real life, I literally see red and turn to the old man, just a casual racist as there are legion everywhere, and ask him if he is aware that all people have the same right to this train? He mumbles something, trying to explain that it is a fact though. They are standing there. Yes, it is a fact that people are standing in the train, trying to leave. Only a racist makes a derogatory remark on their origin (which, by the way, doesn't have to be Japanese at all, just because he thinks so). That is how patriarchy and racism work, and I was shaking when I left the train, as much because of the conflict I had had myself, as because of the enhancing effect of the brutal novel on my fragile equilibrium.

12 o'clock in a local village, without cash:

While the story evolves into a case of mental disease and a rare form of anorexia nervosa, I start to feel like I am starving myself. Where do you find anything to eat in a village that doesn't accept credit cards, and that thinks vegetarianism means taking the meat off the regular plate?

14 o'clock in a local train, other direction, still no food, hallucinating over a chocolate bar:

While the train stops for a police action (the story doesn't provide any further information on that matter, unfortunately), and I see minutes pass, worrying I might miss my plane, I look outside and see beautiful landscapes with trees and flowers in abundance, while reading about violent sex acts carried out in a most disturbing way, by protagonists with flower patterns painted all over their bodies. I feel slightly uncomfortable to read the book in a public space now, hoping not to draw any attention to myself. It is intense reading. No quotes.

17 o'clock at an airport, waiting, I have food and water and a spot to myself, locked away in the security area:

And that is a good thing, because now the story moves between dream and reality, between now and childhood trauma, between guilt and shame. How can you possibly be a woman in a world dominated by male rules and male violence? In a hospital for mental health, the vegetarian tries to change into a plant in order to escape the carnal pain that has defined her life from the beginning. And in her sister, she plants a seed of doubt. What if she is not the strong one, after all? Just the one hiding behind a polished surface, having demured, but not lived?

20 o'clock, on a plane, constant background noise as a mother struggles to keep her two toddlers quiet (without success) while the plane has been delayed twice before finally heading to the North:

The screams that fill the claustrophobic aircraft cabin resonate in the silent pain of the main character trying to erase the traces of humanity in herself. The story is hardly bearable on a regular day, but after 12 hours of exposure to public transportation, it hits you in the stomach and makes you feel nauseous.

22 o'clock, touchdown, last lines.

"The look in her eyes is dark and insistent."
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,520 reviews9,000 followers
May 29, 2017
I liked several aspects of The Vegetarian on an intellectual level. Han Kang does a great job portraying how women suffer from the male gaze, patriarchal standards that make them adhere to men, and abuse brought on by the forced consumption of meat and the men who partake in said consumption. As a future psychologist passionate about eating disorders, though, I abhorred how Kang portrayed Yeong-hye's descent into anorexia. Yes, I get that her refusal to eat meat and then food overall symbolizes her rejection of the normative, sexist values of her surrounding society and family. But Kang glorified this restrictive behavior too much. Others have described this book as "beautiful" and "fresh" and "delicious." This book is literally about a woman who slowly kills herself through self-starvation. There is nothing pretty or romantic or healthy about this novel. I would not want anyone to model their actions after Yeong-hye, and I wish Kang had driven home that point more.

Overall, a good depiction of a woman who suffers because of the violence men inflict upon her. I do not recommend it though, based on wanting to avoid the implication that anorexia is a reasonable way to cope - when I know firsthand and from other experiences that it is not.
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book2,134 followers
January 30, 2019
This was a perfect, perfect book for me. The novel is simply told, and very short, but it touches on so many critical, cut-to-the-bone themes, including the most fundamental questions of identity, of gender, of responsibility toward others, and of what makes life worth living. In this novel the more outwardly stable and successful a character is, the less likely they are to have any perspective on their life choices. The more a given character becomes aware of their lived experience, the closer he or she comes to falling into the abyss. The story forces characters, and by extension readers, to think deeply about what "self" is, whether it be defined most simply as an organic body with organic desires and needs of its own, or as part of a social structure, where one's value and even one's sanity is defined by others. This was a disturbing read in the best sense possible--I was disturbed from complacent thinking and stirred up with new thoughts.
Profile Image for MischaS_.
785 reviews1,374 followers
June 18, 2019
Honestly? I don't know what to say. This was one of the hardest books to read, ever.

I started once a few months ago, and at the scene where , I broke. I could not continue. It was so painful. And I could not imagine the horror of your own family doing that to you.

The story is about Yeong-here but except for little snippets (dreams), we follow it through different POV. It had a certain feeling to it like she was degraded from being an adult, a person who can decide for herself.

The only thing I really disliked about this book that a)she was not a vegetarian, I'm not even sure that you could call her a vegan, she was very extreme. b)it very much shows her "plant diet" as a mental illness. Yes, she was ill. However, her diet did not cause it, same with anorexia or bulimia, that's usually not the illness, it's how it manifests!
Unfortunately, people read this, and some people look at anyone not eating meat and think that they are sick. And some people already told me: "see, she starved because she did not eat meat. And she went crazy! You should get a steak!"

FYI, if you have any good book (fiction) with a good representation of people on a plant-based diet, please, write the recommendation in the comments!

(Bought in Berlin)
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,956 followers
February 21, 2016
MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List


I'm almost at a loss for words on how to review this book. I loved it, it was sad and bizarre, but when dealing with mental illness, not that much is bizarre. I have my own mental illnesses so I don't put too much into what people think because there are those that support you and those that don't. And to me, in my opinion, I think Yeong-hye might not have slipped into this world as far as she did if she had support from her family. One can never tell.

I wish we could have heard Yeong-hye's thoughts, there were snippets here and there, but this story is told through her husband's eyes, her brother-in-law's eyes and one of her sisters eyes.

I think her husband was a jerk. He married Yeong-hye because she was plain and wouldn't outshine him. She would be a decent woman to take care of him and she worked her own job without any fuss. But, one night he wakes up and finds her in the kitchen, she's just standing there. He's fussing at her and all she finally says is I had a dream. The whole story line where she is just standing there in the dark like a statue was very creepy to me!

The next thing her husband finds her throwing out all of the meat and saying she is a vegetarian now. She had a very disturbing dream of blood and death, it doesn't go too much into the dream, but it was enough to change how Yeong-hye saw the world. I really don't know if this was just a beginning of mental illness or something that was just a decision after a dream.

The sad part is that her husband never supported her, he abused her a few times, her family didn't support her and even abused her. I despised her father for the abuse of an animal and his own daughter. He should have been taking to the gallows, but I digress. I'm not sure, but I'm thinking if they would have supported her and not acting the way they did at a dinner that she might not have ending up in a psych ward for suicidal tendencies. Well, her sorry husband who didn't support her anyway, and was secretly in love with her sister, divorced her.

I think after Yeong-hye got out of the hospital and lived in her own little flat, that she was getting better. She stopped looking so emaciated because she got to eat all of the veggie food that she wanted. She seemed to be somewhat happy. I was beginning to feel like her luck might be turning around. THEN... her brother-in-law starts coming around, he has a secret lust for her. What is with this family!!!

I felt like he used her to bring him into his world, to get what he wanted. He was an artist and all of that had to do with body painting. Even still, I'm not sure that Yeong-hye would have went to the extremes she did if her sister didn't walk in on them and have them both carted off to the mental ward because of her jealousy. From this point on, Yeong-hye went downhill... she wouldn't eat, she wanted to be a tree.


I'm really not sure if any of my thoughts on the book are right. I'm not sure if this was something else entirely, but I do know what I took away from the book is that people are cruel. Your own family can be cruel. Sometimes people just need a little help and acceptance, who knows what would have happened. This book is both sad, sensual and yes, a little crazy. But, I loved it. There is just something about it that I loved.

*I would like to thank The Reading Room and Penguin Random House LLC for a free print copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*
Profile Image for Repellent Boy.
503 reviews523 followers
September 29, 2019
"Rechazando la carne, mi protagonista rechaza la violencia del ser humano" con esta frase que la autora contesta en una entrevista que también recoge la novela, se puede resumir bastante bien de lo que trata este libro. Aunque es mucho, muchísimo más. Es una novela enorme en mayúsculas.

Nos vamos a encontrar con Yeonghye un mujer que de pronto decide dejar de comer carne. Curiosamente la autora decide contarnos la historia de Yeonghye a través de tres narradores diferentes, su marido, su cuñado y su hermana. Y, extrañamente, conseguí empatizar con la protagonista a un nivel, que me extraña muchísimo haberlo conseguido sin escuchar sus propios pensamientos.

Como digo este libro es enorme y bajo la trama de una chica que decide dejar de comer carne, se esconde mucho más. Es una crítica a la sociedad y no creo que solo se centre en la surcoreana, se puede extrapolar al resto del mundo, porque en mayor o menor medida, es algo que se repite en todos los países. Como digo, es una crítica a esta sociedad donde no se puede destacar, donde si algo se sale de la norma se señala, se castiga. Una sociedad donde alguien no puede dejar de comer carne sin que el mundo de su alrededor opine. La mayoría de los personajes le repiten constantemente que sin la carne no tendrá vitalidad, y, curiosamente, ningún personaje irradia energía, más bien todo lo contrario. Se mueven casi por inercia. Y además, salvo su hermana al final, a ningún personaje parece que le mueva la preocupación real por la salud de la protagonista, si no el mero hecho de que no destaque, de que algo diferente que no entienden, no les incomode o perturbe su vida. Por ejemplo, su marido, lo único que opina sobre ella es que ha cambiado y ya no le resulta tan cómoda la convivencia con ella.

Y, por supuesto, una vez más, la peor parte se la lleva la mujer. Curiosamente el único personaje que logra entenderla al final, si no bien en su totalidad, si empatizar con ella, es su hermana. Otra mujer que ha pasado por esa misma violencia con la que la sociedad liderada por hombres oprime a las mujeres. Existen muchas citas donde su marido habla de ella como una persona a la que escogió por "simple", por no destacar o por no tener nada especial. Y que eso le gustaba de ella, que estuviera callada y no diera problemas. De hecho, curiosamente, jamás la llama por su nombre, solo la nombra como "mi mujer" o "ella", como si fuera una más de sus posesiones. O su cuñado, que solo la ve como un elemento para conseguir satisfacer sus deseos. Así, es su hermana Inhye el único personaje que realmente trata de entenderla y consigue ponerse en sintonía con ella de alguna manera.

La novela tiene un prólogo y una nota posterior de la traductora super interesantes, donde nos cuenta que la novela en Corea inicialmente fue muy críticada y no gustó a los críticos, y que estos, obviamente, eran predominantemente hombres. De hecho a las mujeres solía gustarles la novela, mientras que los hombres no lograban entenderla. Vaya vaya. La historia de siempre.

Por otra parte, mientras leí la novela tenía un sentimiento rarísimo que pocas veces he experimentado leyendo un libro. Muy pocas. Y no lograba identificarlo hasta que lo acabé. Era incomodidad, el libro te hace sentir oprimido. Es tan perturbador, tan crudo y realista, que te pone los pelos de punta cada página.

Aconsejaría a todo el mundo que leyera este libro con ganas y analizando cada frase sin quedarse en la superficialidad del tema inicial, para lograr sacarle todo el jugo que merece este libro. Aún así, mi consejo es que si no estás acostumbrado a leer literatura asiática, vayas primero a otro tipo de libro. En fin, ya tenemos un firme candidato a mejor lectura de 2019. MARAVILLA ABSOLUTA.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,173 reviews8,388 followers
May 24, 2016
The Vegetarian is a very cerebral novel. And yet, it's incredibly affecting. Han Kang is able to explore dark and twisted events--and characters--in a really engaging way. It's thrilling to see the story devolve, and I have to say I was never quite sure what was going to happen next. Overall it was such a fun reading experience (which if you've read this book definitely doesn't reflect the subject matter) mostly because the story felt so fresh and exciting. I really can't compare this to anything I've read in a while, and I can see why it recently won the Man Booker International Prize. Try this one if you're looking for something short, powerful and a bit sick. 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Seemita.
180 reviews1,615 followers
July 22, 2016
[Originally appeared here (with edits): http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li...]

Many of us, if stretch a little, can recall the question that appeared in our science textbooks in primary schools: choose the living and non-living thing from the following options. While we conveniently tagged all humans, animals and plants to the ‘living’ side, everything else chugged to the ‘non living’ side. But did the divide stand the test of time?

Han Kang pushes this very divide to scintillating heights, reducing the line into a mere fissure, facilitating travel from one living form to another. So, we meet a young Yeong-hye in South Korea, a compliant wife in a patriarchal society, suddenly renouncing meat at the behest of a curious dream. A matter of grave concern, throwing not just her health into jeopardy but also her marital and filial relationships asunder, that must be assuaged before it’s too late. But a series of disturbing, echoing nightmares keep her stoic in her resolve, leaving only her sister and brother-in-law in the big, unforgiving world to extend their support, albeit not without curious pokes and starkly different motives.

What follows underline the haunting journey of a woman transformed, repealing everything conventional to assign meaning to her inner voice. Experiencing erotic exploitation and befriending helpless eyes, discarding worldly echoes and embracing floristic world, Yeong-hye moves from a home to a studio to a hospital with incredible equanimity and singular passion .

Intermingling three points of view in three different, well-etched parts with the eye of a shrewd player, Kang raises questions on human dichotomies and their constant collision against the inherent shackles of society. 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. In one of her interviews, Kang ascertains that the novel is an attempt to fight human violence and the possibility to refuse bearing it. A lingering trail formed by each part, almost akin to life that continues to throb long after it has stepped off the page, certainly adds gravitas to her objective.

This wasn’t an easy read for me, frequently veering on the bizarre and mystical, puncturing a perfect reading demeanor. But the lithe, supple body of the words came to rescue, lapping up my anxiety like an unexpected drizzle that keeps one’s soul hydrated on a trying road. The sentences, themselves, run like trimmed creepers, embracing the reader in a cocoon of adrenaline rush and propelling slowly towards the destination like an intoxication catching speed.
"Such uncanny serenity actually frightened him, making him think that perhaps this was a surface impression left behind after any amount of unspeakable viciousness had been digested, or else settled down inside her as a kind of sediment."
The destination, of course, is occasionally a misnomer, for all it does is set us onto a new journey. This book fits to that assertion like a glove.
Profile Image for j e w e l s.
315 reviews2,418 followers
July 7, 2018

Call me crazy. I like to challenge myself with "intellectual" novels that win awards. THE VEGETARIAN was definitely demanding and it's another one to add to my appreciate, but didn't exactly enjoy it file.

This South Korean story of an "unremarkable" woman that wakes up from a nightmare and declares herself to be vegetarian is an odd story of rebellion. The woman absolutely infuriates her husband and parents with this assertive decision and somehow becomes a rebel, a subversive, an outcast. In the end, she simply wants to be. Without human violence or greediness. Why can't she be like the vegetation she consumes, NOT the carnivorous human society expects of her?

Some of the passages about murderous thoughts or bloody animals are not easy to read; but there are also many beautiful passages that are so visual, so visceral--- I felt my heart breaking a little.

I listened to the book and loved the production. Poetry should be listened to out loud and this book is perfect for that. Han Kang is a gorgeous writer and I noticed she had another book (THE WHITE BOOK with the same translator) nominated this year for the same award.

THE VEGETARIAN owes everything to Kafka and the idea of metamorphosis in life and in death. It's a haunting, complex novel that I'm glad I read.

The novel won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize and it is meant to be split between the author (Han Kang) and the translator (Deborah Smith). With good reason. When a novel like this one reads more like poetry, you can understand how translation is of absolute importance. Word choice is EVERYTHING. I googled some info about the translation of this novel and, oh my gosh! I had no idea what I was getting into. According to some Korean American lit critics, Smith took way too many liberties with the translation and the result is a completely different book than the South Koreans read. Apparently, the original is even more poetic and spare and I would imagine, much better. It is an interesting google rabbit hole to fall into if you have a few hours to spare- Haaaaa!
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