Two Japanese classics

I hadn’t been to the local Oxfam (sorry anyone locally it has very little in translation on its shelves as I have them!) for ten day which for me is a long time due to training last week and other things I hadn’t got to town. But I was pleased to find two Japanese classics one had been on my radar a while and the other is by a writer I have tried before and want to try again as my first encounter wasn’t the best but everyone rates him as a writer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First up is Kobo Abe’s Woman in the Dunes, a modern classic that is also a well-known film. It follows seven years in a man’s life as he is trapped by the woman in the dunes. A cat and mouse tale as the two try to escape and the woman uses here female sensuality to keep him there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we have another backlist book from Peter Owen (i do wish they’d make more of the backlist it is one of the best around) this is by Yukio Mishima whose sailor who fell from grace with the sea, I really didn’t get along with since then I have brought a couple of his books to read . Looking back it reminds me it is a year and half since I reviewed a book from Japan so I need to address that missing Tonys Japan in January which is when I would save my Japanese books to read.

What gems have you found recently ?

The explosion chronicles by Yan Lianke

 

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The explosion chronicle by Yan Lianke

Chinese fiction

Original title –  炸裂志

Translator – Carlos Rojas

Source – review copy

Yan Lianke is a writer I have read twice in the course of shadowing the man booker and IFFP before we have twice reviewed his books Dream of Ding Village and Four Books  . both of which showed the dark of modern day China .I am always saying I miss the Chinese novel that takes on these Mega cities that are now so vast and huge they are like a sprawling creatures on the chinese landscapes what it must be like to be in those place is what I want to know . Well this on the surface is partly what this is about the birth of one of those mega cities from a few small huts and house to a cities of millions.

Yuan dynasty

When explosion Village was first founded, it had about hundred residents. Because the village had Yi river in front and the Balou Mountain range in back, and because its fields were wide and flat, farmers would often gather there to barter and to buy and sell goods. As a result, the village gradually became a small marketplace.

The small start rather like a number of these megacties .

The novel follows the people of the city of explosion , I find an irony in the name as this is what these huge cities are explosions on the map in away and this is the tale of one of those told in its own history  .What we see is a small village lead by Zhu Ying father starts to expand the village , but he runs into trouble as there is a rival family the Kong family  there are two brothers they also what to be in on the growth of the city. Then  Zhu father is killed in strange circumstances so she leaves but like all prodigal children she returns and firstly runs a brothel then starts to become a serious businesswoman .Add to that marriages between the families , a large amount of back hash. backhands and blackmailing . A scene where a number of elders kill themselves and what we have here is the inside track of these monster cities birthed in the back and beyond and allowed to grow uncontrolled under no supervision into a mega city with a dark underbelly.

Democracy mixed with a thunderstorms, leaving explosions completely soaked.

Zhu Ying returned from the provincial seat the day before the election .By this point the rain had stopped, the sun had come out and the air was fresh. A sedan brought zhu Ying to the entrance  of the village, where she saw the enormous stele the town mayor had erected in her home. Then she strolled into the village .

Zhu Ying returns to her home town to get back what was theirs in the past .

Well I like this it still missed the sense of what it is for these place to be as an everyday person it had at times a traditional Chinese fable like feel to the story as it went on the brother the daughter scared by her father death a marriage to try to unite them these are all familiar themes in myths especially Chinese myths . Maybe what Yan is trying to say is these cities are in a way surreal and fable like growth places like Suzhou have expand since the Chinese since the post Mao reforms . He captures the madness of this world of backhanded and blackmailers. Like his other books he takes a look under the veil of modern china.This is my favourite book by him and worth reading for a take on modern China .

Our lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga

 

OurLadyoftheNile

 

Our lady of the Nile by Scolastique Mukasonga

Rwandan fiction

Original title – Notre Dame du Nil

Translator – Melaine Mauther

Source – Library book

I was rather shocked when last week I popped into the main branch of our Library in Chesterfield and saw this on a stand as last time I looked for an archipelago book my library hadn’t any so this was a real shock as it was on my to get list after earlier this year I reviewed Cockroaches by Mukasonga left me with a sense I had to get to this book at some point . Scholastique Mukasonga has lived in france since 1992 and worked as a social worker in Caen .

There were only two Rwandans on the entire teaching staff of the Lycee of Our Lady of the Nile: Sister Lydwine, and the Kinyarwanda teacher ,naturally. Sister Lydwine taught History and Geography, but she made a clear distinction between the two subjects: History meant Europe , and Geography, Africa.

Maybe they should have been Taught their own history !!

Now I for one am not a huge reader of boarding school books , even back when I was young they never grabbed me . But this is a school story that shows that a place can reflect the country it is part of the school in the book Our lady of the Nile is on the high on a hill by the origins of the Mighty Nile river  and is a private school  the sort where young girls are sent to become women  , where the staff are nearly all from outside Rwanda Nuns and fathers from the Catholic church . The book unfolds with each chapter about a particular girl but as the book progress like the year in the school we are following the life of the girls in the school turns darker. The problems start with a limiting on the number of Tutsi . This leads to tension in the school where some girls start to accuse people of being Tutsi due to their nose ,even the virgin Mary statue is a Tutsi statue. This slice of Rwanda in the 1980’s when the book is set a number of years before the genocide that the writer herself lost 27 members of her family.

“Modesta” said Glorisoa . “Have you taken a good look at the Virgin’s face ”

“Which one ?”

“Our lady of the Nile, the statue .”

“Yes and ?Sure it’s not like the other Marys . It’s Black the whites put black makeup on her . Probably to please us Rwandans , but her son  in the chapel remains white ”

“But did you notice the nose? It’s a straight little nose, a Tutsi nose ”

“They took a white virgin , painted it black and kept that white nose ”

“Yes but now she’s black , it’s a Tutsi nose ”

The Tutsi nose that cause a spilt and fights in the school !!

I enjoyed this as much if not more so than Cockroaches there is almost a freedom Mukasonga found in the fiction of  the event that lead up to the Genocide and using the school with its catholic nuns and priest  teaching the elite who are all from the outside Rwanda  barring two maybe don’t see what happens just under the nose where bullying and the inequality in even getting to the school all point to the undercurrents that lead to the uprising . The translation has kept a number of french words in place like Lycee (french for high school ), for me it kept a sense of place as most of the nuns seem to be from French-speaking Belgium , which was the country that ran Rwanda before Independence . This capture the sense of a place boiling under those racial tensions that had been simmering til the country boiled over in 1994. I was reminded of the Ulster of my youth in some ways where the tension between the sides came out in painting things and murals and of course the violence of the troubles but also a story my late step mother told me of a friend hers where he was stopped in Belfast in the seventies one evening as asked was he protestant or catholic , he said Jewish at which point he was as Protestant Jewish or Catholic Jewish , the point is that like Gloriosa the Bully in this book is like all  bullys will be violent what ever like the Nose in the book sometimes you have to be on one side or another even if you are not !!

 

Two green otters by Buket Uzuner

Two Green Otters

Two green otters by Buket Uzuner

Turkish fiction

Original title – İki Yeşil Susamuru, Anneleri, Babaları, Sevgilileri ve Diğerleri

Translator – Alexander Dawe

Source – review copy

It wasn’t so long ago when there wasn’t many Turkish novels available outside those by Orhan Pamuk was small , but this last couple of years a few more writers have appeared and a number of strong female voices from Turkey Buket Uzuner I would count in that group like Birgul Oguz and Ciler Ilhan that I have reviewed in recent years shining a light on the female experience of modern Turkish life . Buket studied biology and environmental studies before becoming a writer.

That year a lot of my friends parents got divorced, and we picked on each other in a way that only children can do . We’d say , “Yours aren’t divorced yet ? That’s so uncool, and then we’d laugh. These days I often run into those old friends of mine and nobody laughs about it the way we used to .

Those parents who were leaving hom at the time started up another trend : They’d move to “undiscovered” little towns and villages on the mediterranean coast. Sevin, my mom’s friend from college, was the first in our family to get divorced.Ner husband Semih, an electrical engineer, moved to Bodrum with a young actress and opened a restaurant

I connect with this passage as my own parents split and like Nilsu it was rare in this time for parents to divorce.

The book is the story of  one young womans life in the 1980’s Nilsu has lost her mother how has abandon her at maybe the most important point in her life the verge of adulthood. Her mother took off and this has left the young woman struggling to trust and vulnerable to the wider world at this point she meets the enigmatic Teo who is the leader of a green party in the Turkey . The two fall for each other but hold off on doing anything that is until Teo own mother takes her life and leads him to a downspiral with only Nilsu to help him out as the two draw closer and his political world becomes more turbulent. They try to help them get back to the calmer side of life and carry on with their lives .

“We can talk about Thoreau , Gandhi , Tolstoy and Schumacher “, he said , full of zeal, “but Lao-Tse was the grandfather of them all! Now there is Foucault , and maybe me!” around the same time Siddhartha was making waves in europe and thanks again to Ulla , Teoman got a copy- she still sends him books now and then – hut he knew how differently such a book would affect European Christians and Mediterranean Muslims.

This shows how when books get translated the power they can have over those that read them !!

This is a wonderful insight into how a young woman struggles to get by through in their own world especially in what in Turkey is a very Male oriented society add to the lix her involvement with the green movement at a time when Turkey was just getting over the last of a number of military coups that had happened during the 197o’s . A country that had decide to start looking to the west and is growing, but the green movement is the flipside of this growth. Nilsu and Teo are the new face of Turkey the fresh-faced willing to stand alone and willing to sand together finding strength together in the end as they stop each other from diving into the depths of despair .A great insight into Turkey at the time just as it is waking up to the world maybe and a great leap forward .

 

 

The tale of Aypi by Ak Welsapar

The Tale of Aypi

The tale of Aypi by Ak welsapar

Turkmenistan fiction

Translator – W M Coulson

source – review copy

It is rarer and rarer  these days I add new countries to the list of book I have read from list. So to add Turkmenistan is a nice addition especially as AK Welsapar is one of those rare writers that writes despite oppression from his own country where his writing has been banned since 1993 , he was also under house arrest for a year at this time . He was trained as a journalist in Moscow. It was in this capacity that he highlighted the environmental problems that where left in the central Asian area in the post Soviet era.

A few days later, when they next gathered on the same spot, the old men were finally compelled to discuss with each other what they had always avoided mentioning ; namely when they would relocate. Like it or not, this had to be resolved , before the problem forced its own resolution. Naturally, after quite a bit of beating around the bush, the council got underway . Hodja spoke his mind first .”Shipmates share their soul they say, and if we’ve gotta go , let’s not drift off one by one, but let’s pick a day and ship out together.”

THe men decide what to do when told to relocate .

This book follows a despite between the fishermen of a small village on the Caspian sea and the soviet regime that is wanting to oust them from their homes but also their way of life have been asked to relocate . One of this group the Araz , he use the myth of Aypi  of the title has decide he wants to fight for their way of life and to stand firm for their past and the myths they believe in. Like that Aypi a young woman who was killed unjustly and has haunted the men of the resion for many years . The book is a fight between small and large , good and evil , old and new . Will Araz save his way of life but also that of everyone in his village.

At the first premonition of dawn. Aypi’s ghost floated down from above and into the winding, dishevelled streets.As the sun rose in the sky to the height of a spear, the village , as it always did came to life. Like sturgeon in shallow water, people went back and forth leaving wakes behind them.

I loved the imagery of this short opening to a chapter about Aypi but also the village .

I loved the nature of this book of bygone times and also how people’s lives can change. for me it remind me of a story I heard many years ago I worked in a day centre over 25 years ago and one of the ladies their had worked many years earlier, on the herring boat fleet as what was called a herring girl where she followed the fleets of boats fishing Herring up and down the east coast of Britain , LIke Araz and his friend this community had its own way of life. I often reflect on how similar fisherman’s lives can be around the world as it ends up as man against nature most of the time . This is a life that had been for many years the way of life for many girls from the north-east. This like Araz is a life that is dying out, well in this case had died out. This story is also a bigger story of violent regime trying to push people of their land also  destroying the  land and sea around them.A K welsapar is one of those writers that use a small story to paint a wider picture of the world around him and what he sees .Another gem from the Glagoslav .

A temporary sojourn and other stories by Nasreen Jahan

A temporary sojourn by Nasreen Jahan

Bangladeshi Fiction

Original title –

Edited by Niaz Zaman

Translators – various

Source – review copy

I was sent this via a fellow blogger Chelsea McGill who blogs from the globally curious  and lives in India . The collection she sent me is from one of the best known Bangladeshi writers Nasreen Jahan , she joined the Chander hat a national organsation for children organisations in 1974 and was at this time also encouraged to writer short stories which eventually got published in a daily paper in Bangladesh. She has written novels and short stories and also a number of prizes including the Bangla prize.

Kader Ali had cleaved the boy in two with his axe and fled the village in a frenzy. By the time he reached the riverbank at the end of the river, it was past sundown. An unpredictable wind was blowing, sometimes motionless and dead, sometimes they lash at you so hard you’re startled. In this unruly state of nature the river waters are in a fix. Fortunately a pitch darkness has defended or else this behaviour of the wind on her anchal waves pulling in one way and baring the other would have caused the river to fail miserably in keeping herself decent.

A temporary sojourn opening passage

The stories in this collection all for me had an eerie feel to them a collection of tales of low lives and people on the edge of life.A husband in the title story kills his son because he feels his wife hasn’t really become a muslim after they married. Elsewhere a mother and daughter fall out over the daughters lover the mother has deformed legs this remind me some what of Maugham characters in of human bondage only with the roles shift in sexes. Other stories head into Marquez and magic realism with cattle thief clashing with the vultures and elsewhere animals turning up. These are stories of everyday Bangladesh where we she how hard life is for the woman there and how often they are let down by the males around them. A refreshing collection of stories from a new name for the blog and new country for the blog.

A vulture is perched between the outstretched legs of the dead cow that had been lying on Nayar Char for sometime. It is jumping about like a new-born calf.

Kutubuddi is watching from a distance. There is not a single soul in sight anywhere. The sky seems to have descended on the Char like the breast of a white cow. Today Kutubuddi is a skilled hunter. his feet are [added like a cat;s. Indifferent to the thorny bushes that are scratching him and drawing blood he creeps forward

Man and Vulture get to it over a dead cow in the story Vulture , I felt this had a large echo of Marquez in it.

When I started winstonsdad these are the books I wanted to review the rare gems those books that show how yes these stories are set in Bangladesh but also the stories could remind you so much of the people we see every day on Jeremy kyle being at the bottom is hard wherever you are but this also shows how strong the woman are in Bangladesh for me this is also a perfect books for woman in translation month. Yes some of the translations are maybe raw and the voice isn’t the same as it is when one translator does a short story collection but it is also refreshing to see so many translators that can translate Bangladeshi fiction into English eleven in all. Many thanks for Chelsea for sending it to me .Have you read any books from Bangladesh.

Man tiger by Eka Kurniawan

 

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Man tiger by Eka Kurniawan

Indonesian fiction

Original title Lelaki Harimau

translator  Labodalih Sembiring

Source – personnel copy

Winstons score B+ a fresh voice from an emerging country in translation in English , owes much to Marquez but worth reading.

Eka Kurniawan had been on my radar since his first novel beauty is a wound appeared last year, so when the second book by him Man tiger appeared on the man booker I was pleased to get the chance to add Indonesia to the list of countries this blog has covered. Eka Kurniawan grew up in a small coastal town and studied philosophy he is also a graphic designer. Also in the introduction to this book there is talk about how Eka discovered books and the two books he loved that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the old crime novels of the detective Nick Carter.

 

Boar hunting had become their pastime many years ago, back when Sadrah was still the town’s military commander. Anwar Sadat himself had always been highly enthusiastic every time the harvest season ended, when people were no longer bound to the soil, which was left fallow temporarily. Although he had never raised a spear or run up and down the hills, he always provided boxed meals of rice and fried egg and a truck to take the hunters to the jungle’s edge. Three times a year they enjoyed this sport, going on the season’s non-stormy Sundays. Between hunts they would tame ajaks and train them to course their prey.

Anwar like Margio was a hunter as well .

I don’t often read introductions to books but am pleased I did to this one as it placed the work in context to me. Baring in mind the book is 11-year-old, its safe to say this is a book written firmly under the spell and style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If Marquez had grown up in a small coastal town in Indonesia this is possibly the book he would have written. Man tiger follows, the death of Anwar Sadat (am I the only one that find it is strange the choice of a Egyptian president that also like the main character in this book is shot) . Now this is a not a who dunit as we know who shot him it is more a whydunnit in a way.Anwar was shot by Margio a young man with a white tiger as a friend whose famlies past has often crossed with the womanizer Anwar Sadat a failed artist. What drove the young man to kill the older man who had been a thorn in his families side for so long. Margio talks about the tiger also being inside him.

The coffin was covered by a golden sheet with silvery tassels, inscribed with the words of the Shahada. Kyai Jahro led the salawat chants as it left the surau, a few people following behind, mostly Margio’s friends who had been hunting boars on the mountain and gave no thought to their mud-smeared clothes. Margio was among them, right next to the coffin, scattering the flowers Mameh had picked along the way. Komar bin Syueb was to be buried at the Budi Darma public cemetery, accompanied by frangipani and champak, a furious little Marian waiting for him on the other side

I loved the atomsphere of this passage it evokes the place so well .

I enjoyed this As I said it remind me of Marquez but also of Classic crime from America where it isn’t always a whodunnit but more of whydunnit as I said this also harks back to the classic crime novels of Latin America where it is more about the scene than we in the uk have to try to find out who did the killing. We also have a trying to pay himage to Marquez without going full magic realism in a way lots of talk about having a tiger in a man but no men becoming tigers here bu the lines nearly get blurred at times. I do wonder about the chhoice of Sadat as a name is that a wider comment on his homeland it wasn’t til 2004 when this book was published the country had its first free presidential election.Well will it make the actual shortlist I think so our I am not sure it is close this year I think you will have to wait to tomorrow and the Shadow shortlist is announced. I have now reviewed all this years longlist.

 

Another man’s city by Ch’oe In-Ho

Another man’s city by Ch’oe In-ho

Korean fiction

Original title -Nat Igun t’aindul ui tosi

Translators – Bruce and Ju-chan Fulton

Source – review copy

“City Sickness”

I’m crawling, don’t know where to or from
The centre of things from where everything stems
Is not where I belong
And the city sickness, growing inside me
So this is where I ran for freedom
Where I may not be free

[Chorus:]
I have these hands beating with love for you
And you’re not here to touch
Sent you away, what else can I do
When I need something that much?
I’m hurting babe, in the city there’s no place for love
It’s just used to make people feel better

I choose the Tinderstick as the mood of this song fitted the book .

Born in Seoul He studied english at university, when he left he started writing publishing his first story in 1967 .Which won a prize, he won a bigger prize with his book Deep blue night. He died two years ago and was remembered a year late when his hand prints were put on a street where he used to drink a lot .I was sent the third set of  library of Korean Literature books the 11- 15 in the series. I read a Pavane for a dead princess and wasn’t bowled over by it I felt it was maybe to Korean for me.But then earlier this year Tony reviewed this book and it made me pick it up .

7a.m.

(POWER ON)

What the hell? K groped the fuzzy boundary between sleep and wakefulness for an answer – what had awakened him?

His alarm clock. The strident ring a desperate cry letting the world know of its existence. Again the shrill clamor.

Dammit! K didn’t like being woken up. He fumbled at the nightstand found the alarm click, silenced .

He wasn’t fully awake. But he was conscious enough to splice the snapped filmstrip of his interrupted sleep, and he closed his eyes

The opening and a dazed K wakes up , I love that line” snapped filmstrip of his interupted sleep “

Another man’s city should really be subtitled Kafka does Korea . We find K a man who likes a drink that seems to get swallowed into a nightmare version of his hometown Seoul .So over the course of the weekend he has lost a period of time .We follow him as he tries to find what happened in this time. But is this real of a VR world one is never sure if this is the case. It is a shifting world he is in maybe electronic or maybe as he sobers up.

Well thought K, there was that one and half hour gap in the filmstrip of his memory, but he couldn’t recall anything that might have caused a concussion. He hadn’t noticed any marks on his head, no evidence of bleeding, no signs of trauma, no headache .

What happend in the missing reel of his life film,  so to speak ?

I over time have found writers ripple through time and place, the great writers  we all know and love have had a knock effect where it is Kafka who has influenced this writer. This is one of a number of books over the years I have reviewed that have been influenced by Kafka from the obvious books like Claudel’s The investigation through books like Muller’s The appointment. Here Kafka raises his head from the main characters name K to being trapped in a world. I was also reminded of fims like the matrix where the world around the lead character is a shifting one.Then there is the other side of the book the fact K is a drinking from what I can gather the writer himself was a bit of a drinker so may have also experienced lost time which many of us did in our youth but not 99 mins like here alsommaybe in a strange way Withnail and I where the time in the weekend away the spend stretches and shrinks as the weekend goes along .An interesting take on being trapped in a world and not knowing fully where it is .I view this as more a comment on the speed and way of the modern world where every minute is noted these days so losing a chunk of time is unknown now.

Have you read any of the Library of Korean Literature series ?

The hen who dreamed she could fly by Sun – Mi Hwang

The Hen who dreamed she could fly by Sun-Mi Hwang

Korean fiction

Translator – Chi Young Kim

Original title – 마당을 나온 암탉

Source – personnel copy

SKYBIRD
Skybird
Make your sail
And every heart will know
Of the tale
Songbird
Make you tune
For none may sing it
Just as you do

Look at the way I glide
Caught on the wind’s lazy tide
Sweetly how it sings
Rally each heart at the sight
Of you silver wings

I choose Neil Diamonds lyrics from his songs for Jonathan livingstone  seagull

I visit Korea again this woman in translation month . With a best seller in Korea by Sun-Mi Hwang .As a young girl her family couldn’t afford to send her to primary school but thanks to a kind teacher manage to be able to read books after school and got into high school because of this .The book came out in 2000 in Korea and was made into one of the best-selling animated films in Korea also a comic and Musical .

Sprout liked to stare out into the barnyard .She would much rather watch the ducks scuttle away from the dog than peck at feed .Closing her eyes she imagined herself wandering freely about . She fantasized about sitting in a nest on an egg , about venturing into the fields with  the rooster , and about following the ducks around .

THe opening lines and we see how Sprout daydreams .

This book it seems is part of a trend of Korean fiction , like the other book from this genre of Korean fiction I reviewed earlier in the year the salmon who dared to leap higher . These fairy tale / fable tales have a greater meaning under the basic story . So this is well as it says on the tin the story of a Hen her name is sprout .She lives in a farm and is in a cage with other hens laying eggs . But this hen by chance glimpse the outside world and wants to not lay and lose her eggs but also see the wider world beyond the cage . She manages to escape and journey outside to the barn , then she  meets the  ducks .This is where she meets greentop ,whom she adopts greentop is an  orphan duckling , whom she has to help along in life as well as finding her own way in the wider world and does she finally get to fly .

“Baby careful ”

“Mum look where I am !” he waved his little wing joyously . the Lilly pad tipped and he fell into the water .

“Baby ” Sprout panicked ,surprised , Baby flailed about .Sprout ran into the reservoir , but her feathers became waterlogged , and she barely managed to get out .

he motherly instinct comes to the front her to save baby even at the rick of her own life .

I read a lot into this about Korean life in general .I see sprout somewhat as Korea  of today , maybe greentop is North Korea in some way the child you didn’t give birth too but want look after but maybe don’t want to let go off .Sprouts journey could also maybe be seen as Korea own journey into the world and discovering the world after the Korean war . Now that could be me seeing too much into it it could just be a story rather like the kids books like Charlotte’s web or Jonathan Livingstone about someone make the way in the world their own way . You could also connect this in part to the film chicken run which follows a group of chickens as they try to escape by learning to fly .Anyway this is a fun book with some lovely illustrations that the uk publisher commissioned for the book . I managed to find a trailer to the film .

 

the vegetarian by Han Kang

The vegetarian by Han Kang

korean Fiction

Original title – 채식주의자

Translator – Deborah smith

Source – review copy

 

Heifer whines could be human cries
closer comes the screaming knife
this beautiful creature must die
this beautiful creature must die
a death for no reason
and death for no reason is MURDER
and the flesh you so fancifully fry
is not succulent, tasty or nice
it is death for no reason
and death for no reason is MURDER
and the calf that you carve with a smile
is MURDER
and the turkey you festively slice
is MURDER

Back when this came out maybe being vegetarian was the same here as it was for Yeong -Hye in Korea .Of course only one lyric for this book Meat is murder by the mighty smiths .

I was sent this just before it came out and I read it back when it came out and was going to review it then , but the day I went to write a post I saw a couple of other people had posted and a few did the next day so rather than be a  small fish in a shoal of fish ,I decided to wait til this month as I thought well I’m sure folks would be interested at the time and a gentle nudge may make a few more people want to read this book .Han Kang Teaches creative writing at Seoul institute of arts and has won a number of prizes in her native Korea incurring the Korean Literature novel award .

Before my wife turned vegetarian .I’d always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way . to be frank , the first time I met her I wasn’t even attracted to her .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 .As she came up to the table where I was waiting .I couldn’t help but notice her shoes – the plainest black shoes imaginable ,and that walk of hers – neither fast nor slow , striding not mincing .

Well poor Yeong-Hye her husband didn’t even notice her the first time they met bar her plain shoes .

Well I was excited about this especially after hear a discussion on  trying to find Vegetarian restaurant on the three percent podcast made me aware that there is actually not many vegetarians or a culture of being vegetarian in Korea  so the main decision in this book is a hard one to make .This novel is a trio of stories about one wives Yeong-Hye journey into become vegetarian and how it affects her husband and her sister and brother-in-law the later whom happens to be a video artist and uses Yo=eong-Hye in what are becoming more and more sexual and erotic works of art .All this send this woman into a downward spiral of self-destruction and sees her own sister come near to the edge as well .We see the ripples of this decision to become vegetarian .

“Lie on your side for me ” slowly as though timing her movements to some music only she could hear , she bent her arms legs and waist and rolled onto her side . He panned the camera down the ridge of her side and over the soft curve of her buttocks , then filmed first the flowers  on her back the flowers of night and the the flowers of the sun on her front .

I choose this as it shows Yeong-Hye could be very sensual in another’s eyes

The book is really a study of what happens when one person decides to do something outside society’s norms .The trio of stories  or as I view them myself they are more like a triptych so the in three parts the start middle and end of this breaking of the norms of society . The beginning sees the family coping how families cope , rather extreme at times as she is almost force-fed at some points .The next part sees a woman slowly become alone , but as this happens falling into an unhealthy partnership with the failing artist of a brother-in-law .the last part well I leave that to you to find lout this book is one that ,makes you think what would make people react the way Yeong-Hye family and friends reacted in the uk these days . I’m not sure what but I think if someone say is from a strong religious , cultural background or class the fallout may be the same as in this book . It shows what happens when a person is pushed out .I was reminded of some of the great pieces of central european fiction for example Blaugast , I have read where the story is the flip  and it is a male  perspective  on  being on the outside of society .Also a great translation by Deborah who we all followed on twitter as she did this one of her first translations .I love the cover which you have to look art ever so carefully to fully get !!

Have you read this book or any other korean novel ?

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