Friday, April 15th, 2016
The Short Take:
A slim volume packed with unsettling power, Kang’s story of a woman who becomes a vegetarian to end her horrifying dreams is shocking, erotic, and dazzling.
Control and self-actualization are the dueling powers of this rather terrifying novel. It is not a horror story, but horrifying nonetheless. Yeong-hye’s decision to eat no meat (veganism is very rare in Korea) has profound effects on her entire family. The book is divided into three parts told from the points of view, respectively, of her husband, brother-in-law, and sister.
The husband’s story is one of bafflement, shame and anger. The brother-in-law finds inspiration for his art and intense sexual desire. The sister’s tale focuses on decisions and regrets. The whole is a trifecta of storytelling, a la Kafka.
A Little Plot:
Yeong-Hye’s bloody nightmares convince her not to eat meat, or much of anything else. Her husband if shocked by this rebellion by his usually docile wife. Her brother-in-law sees something new in her. Her sister is torn by feelings of responsibility and envy.
Han Kang is well known in South Korea but this is the first of her novels to come to America. Wikipedia has a pretty full biography you can check out by clicking here.