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South Korean author Han Kang won the Man Booker International prize for fiction this Monday for her book ‘The Vegetarian’. The prize of 50,000 pounds was shared with the translator of the book Deborah Smith.
This Man Booker International winning novel revolves around a dutiful korean wife Yeong Hye who suddenly experiences violent nightmares. She chooses to become a vegetarian, starves herself believing she can use light to transform herself into a tree. Her obsession begins to take even more violent and disturbing forms. This leaves her family devastated.
Through this novel Author Han Kang wanted to explore if it’s possible to live a perfectly innocent and a non-violent life in this world. What would happen if a person opted to live this way in this threatening world? The protagonist doesn’t want to belong to the human race any longer because of the violence they commit.
One of the reasons behind writing this book was Kang’s fascination with the Gwangju uprising in 1980 where the government attacked pro democratics. It was a gruesome and a bloody scene that stayed with her. She was just nine years old then. This was the first time she realized how violent and gruesome humans can be. At the same time she also explored their self- sacrificing and compassionate nature.
This horrific event became a platform for Han Kang to create a short story on this. This story later transformed into the novel ‘The Vegetarian’. A bad experience transformed into something creative. This incident gave her a reason to explore human behaviour through her writing. Sometimes good can evolve out of something bad.
The Man Booker International prize was shared with Korean translator Deborah Smith. Given the fact that Deborah Smith learnt Korean in 2010, she’s done a surprisingly sensational job in translating it to English. She goes one step ahead and wins the most prestigious award in writing. Astonishingly, she never got into learning any foreign language prior to this. Not having learned any foreign language, inspired her to learn korean. This is applaudable and she rightly deserves the prize along with Han Kang.
The book seems very unique to read. I am sure readers can’t wait to get their hands on this very unsettling novel. Han Kang has proved that a bad experience could be transformed into creativity by exploring it through various angles and Deborah Smith has borne witness to the fact that it’s never too late to learn something new.
Image of Han Kang is a screenshot from this Youtube interview
Diana has worked as an Editor/Writer and Content Manager for various digital platforms and
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