For the first time in the Man Booker award history, the winning author was selected on the basis of just one book (in English). In the past, winning authors had a history of literary works that the committee based their decision on. It also marks the first time Man Booker was combined with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and the winner, Kang and translator Smith, will share the 50,000 (UK) prize money.
Independent publisher Portobello Books released the book. It is Kang’s first novel translated into English, and is a three-part story, told in three points of view about modern day South Korea. “It tells the tale of a dutiful Korean housewife, Yeong-hye, who, spurred on by a dream, decides to become a vegetarian to embrace a more “plant-like” existence. Yeong-hye’s decision, a “shocking act of subversion”, however, fractures familial life and proceeds to manifest itself in “frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement”, leading to “a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body”.
“The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith, is an unforgettably powerful and original novel that richly deserves to win the Man Booker International Prize 2016. After our selection of a diverse and distinguished longlist, and a shortlist of six truly outstanding novels in first-rate translations, the judges unanimously chose The Vegetarian as our winner,” said Boyd Tonkin, 2016 chair.