- Published: 05/11/2015
- ISBN: 9781846276033
- 192 pages
Translated by Deborah Smith
Yeong-hye 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-hye, seeking a more ‘plant-like’ existence, decides to become a vegetarian, prompted by grotesque recurring nightmares. In South Korea, where vegetarianism is almost unheard-of and societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision is a shocking act of subversion. Her passive rebellion manifests in ever more bizarre and frightening forms, leading her bland husband to self-justified acts of sexual sadism. His cruelties drive her towards attempted suicide and hospitalisation. She unknowingly captivates her sister’s husband, a video artist. She becomes the focus of his increasingly erotic and unhinged artworks, while spiralling further and further into her fantasies of abandoning her fleshly prison and becoming – impossibly, ecstatically – a tree.
Fraught, disturbing and beautiful, The Vegetarian is a novel about modern day South Korea, but also a novel about shame, desire and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.
A strange, painfully tender exploration of the brutality of desire indulged and the fatality of desire ignored... Exquisite
Eimear McBride, Baileys Women's Prize-winning author, A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing
The Vegetarian is a story about metamorphosis, rage and the desire for another sort of life. It is written in cool, still, poetic but matter-of-fact short sentences, translated luminously by Deborah Smith, who is obviously a genius
Deborah Levy, author, Swimming Home
[The Vegetarian] is understated even in its most fevered, violent moments. It has a surreal and spellbinding quality. Enthralling
Arifa Akbar, Independent
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