Book Reviews and Highlights

The Vegetarian

Han Kang

  • Asian
  • Cultural Heritage
  • Fiction
  • Literary
  • Psychological
  • Before my wife turned vegetarian, I’d always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way.
  • Part 1: The Vegetarian | Page: 11
  • Middling height; bobbed hair neither long nor short; jaundiced, sickly- looking skin; somewhat prominent cheekbones; her timid, sallow aspect told me all I needed to know.
  • Part 1: The Vegetarian | Page: 11
  • The passive personality of this woman in whom I could detect neither freshness nor charm, or anything especially refined, suited me down to the ground.
  • Part 1: The Vegetarian | Page: 11
  • The very idea that there should be this other side to her, one where she selfishly did as she pleased, was astonishing. Who would have thought she could be so unreasonable?
  • Part 1: The Vegetarian | Page: 21
  • There’s nothing wrong with keeping quiet; after all, hadn’t women traditionally been expected to be demure and restrained?
  • Part 1: The Vegetarian | Page: 28
  • For the first time in a long while, her speech was clear and distinct.
  • Part 1: The Vegetarian | Page: 45
  • I expected an answer from my wife along the lines of “I’m sorry, Father, but I just can’t eat it,” but all she said was “I do not eat meat”— clearly enunciated, and seemingly not the least bit apologetic.
  • Part 1: The Vegetarian | Page: 45
  • I was beginning to get sick and tired of this stubborn “maternal affection.”
  • Part 1: The Vegetarian | Page: 53
  • “You, Yeong- hye, do you know how much this is worth? Would you throw it away? Money scraped together with your own parents’ sweat and blood! How can you call yourself my daughter?”
  • Part 1: The Vegetarian | Page: 55
  • Because of meat. I ate too much meat. The lives of the animals I ate have all lodged there. Blood and flesh, all those butchered bodies are scattered in every nook and cranny, and though the physical remnants were excreted, their lives still stick stubbornly to my insides.
  • Part 1: The Vegetarian | Page: 56
  • I prized open her clenched right hand. A bird, which had been crushed in her grip, tumbled to the bench. It was a small white- eye bird, with feathers missing here and there. Below tooth marks that looked to have been caused by a predator’s bite, vivid red bloodstains were spreading.
  • Part 1: The Vegetarian | Page: 60
  • The deep oxblood curtain fell over the stage.
  • Part 2: Mongolian Mark | Page: 63
  • He had to force himself to accept that the middle- aged man, who had a baseball cap concealing his receding hairline and a baggy sweater at least attempting to do the same for his paunch, was himself.
  • Part 2: Mongolian Mark | Page: 65
  • If it hadn’t been for the image he would never have had to go through all this anxiety, this discomfort and unease, this agonizing doubt and self- examination.
  • Part 2: Mongolian Mark | Page: 69
  • He was grateful for everything she did, running a business as well as a household without a word of complaint.
  • Part 2: Mongolian Mark | Page: 70
  • He examined her exhausted- looking face the way one might look at a complete stranger. Her eyes were deep and clear, thanks to the double- eyelid surgery she’d had in her twenties, and her face was a slender oval, with a smooth, feminine jawline.
  • Part 2: Mongolian Mark | Page: 71
  • She’s a good woman, he thought. The kind of woman whose goodness is oppressive.
  • Part 2: Mongolian Mark | Page: 72
  • He was worn out, and life revolted him. He couldn’t cope with all these things it contaminated.
  • Part 2: Mongolian Mark | Page: 75
  • She gave no sign of assent, but none of refusal either. He held his breath and greedily scanned her impassive features, desperate to fathom the answer that she meant this silence to signify.
  • Part 2: Mongolian Mark | Page: 86
  • This was the body of a beautiful young woman, conventionally an object of desire, and yet it was a body from which all desire had been eliminated. But this was nothing so crass as carnal desire, not for her— rather, or so it seemed, what she had renounced was the very life that her body represented.
  • Part 2: Mongolian Mark | Page: 92
  • The sunlight that came splintering through the wide window, dissolving into grains of sand, and the beauty of that body that, though this was not visible to the eye, was also ceaselessly splintering… the overwhelming inexpressibility of the scene beat against him like a wave breaking on the rocks, alleviating even those terrifyingly unknowable compulsions that had caused him such pain over the past year.
  • Part 2: Mongolian Mark | Page: 92
  • All of his energy was taken up in trying to cope with the excitement, the heightened awareness of living in the present moment.
  • Part 2: Mongolian Mark | Page: 107
  • Suddenly it felt to him that he had grown old, had experienced everything there was to experience, and that not even death held any fear for him anymore.
  • Part 2: Mongolian Mark | Page: 125
  • Time was a wave, almost cruel in its relentlessness as it whisked her life downstream, a life she had to constantly strain to keep from breaking apart.
  • Part 3: Flaming Trees | Page: 144
  • Only Yeong- hye, docile and naive, had been unable to deflect their father’s temper or put up any form of resistance. Instead, she had merely absorbed all her suffering inside her, deep into the marrow of her bones.
  • Part 3: Flaming Trees | Page: 162
  • Her life was no more than a ghostly pageant of exhausted endurance, no more real than a television drama. Death, who now stood by her side, was as familiar to her as a family member, missing for a long time but now returned.
  • Part 3: Flaming Trees | Page: 170
  • It’s your body, you can treat it however you please. The only area where you’re free to do just as you like. And even that doesn’t turn out how you wanted.
  • Part 3: Flaming Trees | Page: 182