Han Kang’s ‘The Vegetarian’, currently available at Waterstones, is an emotive tale detailing the oft-times oppressive nature of marriage.
A young woman has her chances of finding herself cut short, when she is targeted for marriage by a man who seeks out (rather than desires) one such as her, i.e. submissive, obedient and – in his eyes – bland.
But what is quashed must come out somehow and the domesticated object of a bland wife becomes rebellious – turning vegetarian!
Rejecting all persuasions and forced attempts, by family and associates, to get her to eat meat, Yeong-hye becomes more and more introspective:
‘She was unable to say even a single word in case, when she opened her mouth to speak, the meat found its way in.’ (p.40)
Increasingly, Yeong-hye shuts herself away in a quiet place to read a good book, or to curl up, trance-like, into an inanimate ball on her sofa.
Far from making herself into a nothing, however, Yeong-hye is transformed into the sexualised object of her brother-in-law’s obsessional desires.
The readers is left questioning whether the brother-in-law is any better than the husband, as both patriarchs, in my view, fail to recognise her as a fully-fledged human being in her own right.
Han Kang’s novel won The Man Booker International Prize back in 2016 but, with current opinion extolling the benefits of a non-carnivorous lifestyle, I’m predicting its immediate return to the bestseller lists!
Beautifully written and deeply disturbing …
So get on and read it!
Copyright owned by Jay Cool, 14th October, 2019
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