Man Booker International Prize 2016

Why did a book on vegetarianism win the Man Booker International Prize 2016?

Hint: It's much darker and more absorbing than you would imagine...

By Shannon Wilson, 17 May 2016
Why did a book on vegetarianism win the Man Booker International Prize 2016?

It's National Vegetarian Week, and what better way to celebrate than to pick up the winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2016 ‘The Vegetarian’ by Han Kang? Awarded at a ceremony in London last night, the surprise winner by South Korean writer Han Kang chronicles the story of Yeong-hye: a dutiful Korean wife who, spurred on by a dream in which she becomes a tree, decides to become a vegetarian.

“This compact, exquisite and disturbing book will linger long in the minds, and maybe the dreams, of its readers… [with an] uncanny blend of beauty and horror at every turn.”

Coupled with the fact that The Vegetarian is the first single novel to be awarded the coveted prize (usually given based on a writer’s back catalogue rather than a single entry), the unique subject matter has certainly got people talking about the vegetarian diet. Split into three parts, each told from a different person’s perspective, the novel looks at the darker sides of breaking free from tradition. After deciding to become a vegetarian, it soon transpires that the effects of Yeong-hye’s rebellion are more far-reaching than she once realised, exposing her to increasingly bizarre and frightening scenarios, including cruelty at the hands of her husband and father and obsession from her sister’s husband. Intrigued yet?

Chair of the judges Boyd Tonkin said that the judges were unanimous in their choice of winner and that the book was an “unforgettably powerful and original novel that richly deserves to win the Man Booker International Prize 2016.”

“This compact, exquisite and disturbing book will linger long in the minds, and maybe the dreams, of its readers… [with an] uncanny blend of beauty and horror at every turn.”

Already a successful author and creative writing teacher in South Korea, Han Kang will share the £50,000 prize with her British translator Deborah Smith. Deborah only started learning Korean seven years ago, at the age of 21, after she spotted a gap in the market for Korean translators. Moving to Korea to pursue her dream, she has since founded her own non-profit publishing house, Tilted Axis Press, which specialises in translating literature from Asia and Africa. Now that’s inspiring.

You can watch Kang and Smith accepting the award below:

Love reading? Pick up your next favourite book at Asda and check out our round-up of the Ultimate Summer Reading List. If this has tickled your tastebuds for some vegetarian cuisine, these Meat Free Monday recipes are a great place to start.