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THE VEGETARIAN, Han Kang’s stunning U.S. debut

A spellbinding, unforgettable portrait of one woman’s metamorphosis following a single, life-altering choice

THE VEGETARIAN, Han Kang’s stunning U.S. debut

The Vegetarian

Han Kang
  • Imprint: Hogarth
  • On sale: February 2, 2016
  • Price: $21.00
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 9780553448184
Contact: Rebecca Welbourn

Praise for The Vegetarian

“[Han] has been rightfully celebrated as a visionary in South Korea… Han’s glorious treatments of agency, personal choice, submission and subversion find form in the parable. There is something about short literary forms – this novel is under 200 pages – in which the allegorical and the violent gain special potency from their small packages.”Porochista Khakpour, The New York Times Book Review

“This book is both terrifying and terrific.”—Lauren Groff, New York Times bestselling author of Fates and Furies

The Vegetarian is one of the best novels I’ve read in years.  It’s incredible, daring, and stunningly moving. I loved it.”—Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me

 “It takes a gifted storyteller to get you feeling ill at ease in your own body. Yet Han Kang often set me squirming with her first novel in English, at once claustrophobic and transcendent… Yeong-hye’s compulsions feel more like a force of nature… A sea like that, rippling with unknowable shadow, looks all but impossible to navigate—but I’d let Han Kang take the helm any time.” —The Chicago Tribune

 “Provocative…shocking.”—The Washington Post

 “This is a deceptive novel, its canvas much larger than the mild social satire that one initially imagines. Kang has bigger issues to raise… The matter of female autonomy assumes urgency and poignancy.”—The Boston Globe

“A complex, terrifying look at how seemingly simple decisions can affect multiple lives…In a world where women’s bodies are constantly under scrutiny, the protagonist’s desire to disappear inside of herself feels scarily familiar.”—

“Indebted to Kafka, this story of a South Korean woman’s radical transformation, which begins after she forsakes meat, will have you reading with your hand over your mouth in shock.” —O, the Oprah Magazine

 “An elegant tale, in three parts, of a woman whose sudden turn to veganism disrupts her family and exposes the worst human appetites and impulses… [a] stripped-down, thoughtful narrative… about human psychology and physiology.”Huffington Post

 “Adventurous readers will be blown away by Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, in which a once-submissive Korean wife’s compulsion to stop eating meat spirals out of control. This moving story engages complicated questions about desire, guilt, obligation and madness.”—MORE Magazine

 The Vegetarian is the first—there will be more, let’s hope—of Han Kang’s novels to arrive in the United States…The style is realistic and psychological, and denies us the comfort that might be wrung from a fairy tale or a myth of metamorphosis. We all like to read about girls swapping their fish tails for legs or their unwrinkled arms for branches, but—at the risk of stating the obvious—a person cannot become a potted bit of green foodstuff. That Yeong-hye seems not to know this makes her dangerous, and doomed.”—Harper’s Magazine

 “A Kafka-esque world of power struggles.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

 The Vegetarian is incredibly fresh and gripping, due in large part to the unforgettable narrative structure… Han Kang has created a multi-leveled, well-crafted story that does what all great stories do: immediately connects the unique situation within these pages to the often painful experience of living.”—The Rumpus

“A horror story in its depiction of the unknowability of others—of the sudden feeling that you’ve never actually known someone close to you….Its three-part structure is brilliant, gradually digging deeper and deeper into darker and darker places; the writing is spare and haunting; but perhaps most memorable is its crushing climax, a phantasmagoric yet emotionally true moment that’s surely one of the year’s most powerful. This is an ingenious, upsetting, and unforgettable novel.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[A] spare, spectacular novel…Family dysfunction amid cultural suffocation is presented with elegant precision, transforming readers into complicit voyeurs. Fans of authors as diverse as Mary Karr and Haruki Murakami won’t be able to turn away.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Korean writer Han Kang’s elegant yet unsettling prose conveys her protagonist’s brother-in-law’s obsessive, art-centered lust; her sister’s tepid, regret-riddled existence; and Yeong-hye’s vivid, disturbing dreams… Readers will want more of the author’s shocking portrayals of our innermost doubts, beliefs, and longings.”—Booklist

“The book insists on a reader’s attention, with an almost hypnotically serene atmosphere interrupted by surreal images and frighteningly recognizable moments of ordinary despair. Han writes convincingly of the disruptive power of longing and the choice to either embrace or deny it, using details that are nearly fantastical in their strangeness to cut to the heart of the very human experience of discovering that one is no longer content with life as it is. An unusual and mesmerizing novel, gracefully written and deeply disturbing.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Searing…[Yeong-hye’s] extreme efforts to separate herself from her animal appetites reveal the sanity and normality of those closest to her to be mere matchstick houses.”—Helen Oyeyemi, author of Boy, Snow, Bird 

“Suffused with a sensibility that evokes the matter-of-fact surrealism of Franz Kafka, featuring a female protagonist as engagingly perverse as Melville’s Bartleby, Han Kang’s slender but robust novel addresses many vital matters—from the politics of gender to the presumptions of the male gaze, the conundrum of free will to the hegemony of meat—with a dark élan that vegetarians and carnivores alike will find hypnotic, erotic, disquieting, and wise.—James Morrow, author of Galápagos Regained

“A strange, painfully tender exploration of the brutality of desire indulged and the fatality of desire ignored, rendered all the more so by Deborah Smith’s exquisite translation.”—Eimear McBride, Baileys Women’s Prize-winning author of A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing

“Visceral and terrifying, The Vegetarian is a startling reminder of the utter unknowability of another’s mind. Nonetheless, reading it, you will feel it in your flesh: the desire for peace, a plea for safety, for escape from your own inevitable mortality. It is artfully plotted yet reads like a fever dream, sweeping and surreal. It will leave you aching.”—Sarah Gerard, author of Binary Star

“Like a small seed, Han Kang’s startling and unforgettable debut goes to work quietly, but insistently. Her prose is so balanced, so elegant and assured, you might overlook the depths of this novel’s darkness—do so at your own peril.”—Colin Winnette, author of Haints Stay and Coyote 

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 of The Unloved and Swimming Home

The Vegetarian is hypnotically strange, sad, beautiful and compelling. I liked it immensely.”—Nathan Filer, 2013 Costa First Novel award-winning author of The Shock of the Fall
“A stunning and beautifully haunting novel. It seems in places as if the very words on the page are photosynthesising. I loved this graceful, vivid book.”—Jess Richards, Costa First Novel Award shortlisted author of Snake Ropes
“Poetic and beguiling, and translated with tremendous elegance, The Vegetarian exhilarates and disturbs.”—Chloe Aridjis, author of The Book of Clouds 

“Dark dreams, simmering tensions, chilling violence…This South Korean novel is a feast…It is sensual, provocative and violent, ripe with potent images, startling colors and disturbing questions…Sentence by sentence, The Vegetarian is an extraordinary experience… [It] will be hard to beat.”—The Guardian

“This is an odd and enthralling novel; its story filled with nihilism but lyricism too, its writing understated even in its most fevered, violent moments. It has a surreal and spellbinding quality, especially in its passage on nature and the physical landscape, so beautiful and so magnificently impervious to the human suffering around it.”—Arifa Akbar, The Independent

“This short novel is one of the most startling I have read… Exciting and imaginative…The author reveals how nature, sex and art crash through this polite society…It is the women who are killed for daring to establish their own identity. The narrative makes it clear it is the crushing pressure of Korean etiquette which murders them…[A] disturbing book.”—Julia Pascal, The Independent

“Immediately absorbing…The different perspectives offered are so beautifully distinctive…Every word matters.”Sunday Herald

“Shocking…The writing throughout is precise and spare, with not a word wasted. There are no tricks. Han holds the reader in a vice grip…The Vegetarian quickly settles into a dark, menacing brilliance that is similar to the work of the gifted Japanese writer Yoko Ogawa in its devastating study of psychological pain…The Vegetarian is more than a cautionary tale about the brutal treatment of women: it is a meditation on suffering and grief. It is about escape and how a dreamer takes flight. Most of all, it is about the emptiness and rage of discovering there is nothing to be done when all hope and comfort fails….A work of savage beauty and unnerving physicality.”—Irish Times

The Vegetarian is a book about the failures of language and the mysteries of the physical. Yet its message should not undermine Han’s achievement as a writer. Like its anti-protagonist, The Vegetarian whispers so clearly, it can be heard across the room, insistently and with devastating, quiet violence.”—Joanna Walsh, The New Statesman

“[A] strange and ethereal fable, rendered stranger still by the cool precision of the prose… What is ultimately most troubling about Yeong-hye’s post-human fantasies is that they appear to be a reasonable alternative to the world of repression and denial in which everyone around her exists.”—Times Literary Supplement

“The Vegetarian is so strange and vivid it left me breathless upon finishing it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel as mouth-wateringly poetic, or as drenched in hypnotic oddities, taboos and scandal. It seems to have been plucked out of the ether, ready-made to take us all by surprise. Exciting and compelling”—Lee Rourke, New Humanist  

The Vegetarian is so strange and vivid it left me breathless upon finishing it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel as mouth-wateringly poetic, or as drenched in hypnotic oddities, taboos and scandal. It seems to have been plucked out of the ether, ready-made to take us all by surprise”—New Internationalist

The Vegetarian combines human violence and the possibility of innocence…[A] frightening beauty of a novel.” –British Council Literature

“Uncanny.”—The Australian

“Kang belongs to a generation of writers that aim to discover secret drives, ambitions, and miseries behind one’s personal destiny…[The Vegetarian] deals with violence, sanity, cultural limits, and the value of the human body as the last refuge and private space.” —Tiempo Argentino

“[A] bloodcurdlingly beautiful, sinister story.”—Linda

“The almost perverse seduction of this book originates in the poetry of the images. They are violently erotic and rather nightmarish; the novel is like a room full of large flowers, where the musky odour takes you by the throat.”—De groene Amsterdammer

“For the fans of Haruki Murakami.”—Gazet van Antwerpen (starred review)

“Piercing… I was touched the most by the directness, the images, the poignant phrases and most of all the imagination with which it was written.”—nrc Handelsblad

The Vegetarian has an odd kind of silent power, which makes you want to finish it in one go and continue to think about it.”—nrc Handelsblad  (starred review)

“A shocking, moving and thought-provoking novel.”—Trouw

“Outright impressive.”—HUMO

“One of the most impressive novels I have read recently… You need to read this book.”—Arnon Grunberg in De Volkskrant

The Vegetarian is exciting and original.”—De Standaard der Letteren (starred review)

Han Kang’s astonishing novel THE VEGETARIAN (February 2, 2016; Hogarth) revolves around a simple decision with unforeseen and shocking consequences: an ordinary woman stops eating meat after she has a series of horrific nightmares. First published in South Korea, THE VEGETARIAN makes its way to the United States this winter after debuting on the Evening Standard (UK) bestseller list at #2, being selected for the English PEN Translated Literature Book Club, and garnering tremendous international acclaim, including rave reviews in The Guardian, The Independent, and The Times Literary Supplement. Han, a professor in the department of creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts, was a participant of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has won the Yi Sang Literary Prize, the Today’s Young Artist Award, the Korean Literature Novel Award, and the Manhae Prize for Literature.

When gruesome, blood-soaked images start haunting Yeong-hye’s dreams, she resolves to cleanse herself by becoming a vegetarian, a decision that constitutes a shocking act of social rebellion, dividing her from her family and ostracizing her from her community. And as her new lifestyle manifests itself in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. As she rejects all food in favor of water and exposes her naked body to sunlight in an attempt to photosynthesize, Yeong-hye gradually—inconceivably—starts to seem like a plant herself.

THE VEGETARIAN spans three years and is told in three chronological sections: the first narrated by Yeong-hye’s cold, passionless husband; the second by her brother-in-law, an artist struggling to express his vision who suddenly finds in Yeong-hye a new source of inspiration and desire; and the third, and most heartbreaking, by her older sister, who recognizes the disappointments of her own life reflected in Yeong-hye’s situation. Together, they trace Yeong-hye’s complete metamorphosis of both mind and body as her increasingly dangerous, impossible endeavor takes her far away from everything she knows.

Disturbing, tragic, and magnificently composed, THE VEGETARIAN is both an allegorical novel and an intimate story of obsession, choice, and our faltering attempts to adjust when faced with a life we cannot comprehend. With elegant, spare, and achingly beautiful prose, THE VEGETARIAN presents a devastating portrait of a family in crisis and a woman with a singular idea about the unlimited possibilities of her own existence. Yeong-hye’s metamorphosis will haunt you long after the final page.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Han Kang was born in 1970 in South Korea. In 1993 she made her literary debut as a poet, and was first published as a novelist in 1994. A participant of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Han has won the Yi Sang Literary Prize, the Today’s Young Artist Award, and the Manhae Prize for Literature. She currently works as a professor in the department of creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.

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