Review: The Vegetarian by Han Kang
After reading ‘Fruit of my woman’, a bizarre yet narrative brilliance of a story in Granta a couple of months back, my interest piqued about Han Kang and her modus operandi of writing; I am moderately well-versed in the art that is shock literature. Writing and portraying subjects that are often subversive are a good way to unclot your mind from the filth of normalcy. Decadence in world literature has been something that we are growing quite accustomed to, and novels/works like these are truly a breath of fresh air.
Art in general is supposed to make you think. Different novels or different works evoke different chords of emotions inside your grey matter, often painting your thoughts in a specific hue. For me, Murakami speaks volumes in loneliness and imagination of a creative mind. Kafka whispers grotesque thoughts with a tinge of sorrow that is planted bone-deep. Nabokov screams of depression and desperation, and then makes beautiful presents out of them. Tagore sings of the myriad kaleidoscope that is the human psyche. Han Kang – she throws all of these feelings away and shows you a mirror. Fictional albeit spectacular in its vividness, you see an image of yourself that is primal. Your ethereal supremacy dies into a shard of solidified blood, and the color is earthen.
You slowly start to realize that you are not yourself anymore. You are but a being that is devoid of any emotions, a pawn of time, waiting for seasons to pass – growing up from a nothingness of a seed into a full fledged forest of dried up emotions. What starts as a pale dream becomes this monstrous manifestation, taking you inside its ravenous mouth, chewing you whole, and throwing out a carcass that is as ugly as it is severe.
This sincere representation of human life shatters all the barriers of fiction and resonates within us. A time when society is breaking apart, a time when human life is an amalgamation of several dystopias, a time where green is just a colour and rainforests are just a sad lullaby, Han Kang’s blunt ‘The Vegetarian’ reads like the grandeur of an epic, and hits you like a memoir of a fallen soul. It is a heartbreaking rendition of the gradual decay of our society, of our art and our conscience, and I am happy that I read it. It changed my perspective, ever so little, about how a writer should drain his/her influence from this world – just like a tree, sucking water and minerals silently from the earth, standing on its head.