The Vegetarian by Han Kang (tr. Deborah Smith)

a nutshell: this three-part novella from South Korea tells the starkly powerful story of a woman named Yeong-hye who takes a quiet yet explosive stand against her oppressive existence

a line: “Why, is it such a bad thing to die?”

an image: the enigma of the Mongolian mark sustains what was, for me, the most engrossing chapter

a thought: one theme that runs through the entire novella is the idea that everyone is fundamentally unknowable – even to those with whom every day is spent

a fact: in 1997 Han Kang wrote a short story (‘The Fruit of My Woman’) about a woman literally turning into a plant, then reworked the image in The Vegetarian in what she called “a darker and fiercer way”


want to read The Vegetarian? visit here


Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (tr. Jennifer Croft)

a nutshell: entwined into the nomadic needlework of this novel are anecdotes, letters, fragmented narratives, essays; Flights is vast, formidable, flux incarnated – and can’t be nutshelled

a line (or a few lines, in this case): Seeing the world from above, its beautiful, peaceful order. An order that is antiseptic. Contained in shells and caves, in grains of sand and in the scheduled flights of giant airplanes, in symmetry … in the eloquent light of the information screens, and in all light.”

an image: a despairing mother, seemingly suffocating in the pressure of caring for a chronically ill son, flees into the facelessness of vagrancy until a scene of mistreatment chokes her back into recalling her child

a thought: Flights felt to me like a book that requires numerous re-readings for any sense of comprehension; surfacing from it – four hundred pages later – I could scarcely remember ever beginning it

a fact: I didn’t know, until reading Tokarczuk’s account, that the composer Chopin had made the slightly hideous(?) request that his heart be extracted from his corpse and sent from Paris back to his home country, Poland


want to read Flights? visit here