The Man Booker International Prize is given to a book in English translation, with a £50,000 prize for the winning title, to be shared equally between author and translator. Its aim is to encourage more publishing and reading of quality works in translation.
Today the 2016 winner was announced: The Vegetarian written by Han Kang, a South Korean, and translated by Deborah Smith.
Yeong-hye and her husband are ordinary people. He is an office worker with moderate ambitions and mild manners; she is an uninspired but dutiful wife. The acceptable flatline of their marriage is interrupted when Yeong-hye, seeking a more 'plant-like' existence, decides to become a vegetarian, prompted by grotesque recurring nightmares. In South Korea, where vegetarianism is almost unheard-of and societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye's decision is a shocking act of subversion. Her passive rebellion manifests in ever more bizarre and frightening forms, leading her bland husband to self-justified acts of sexual sadism. His cruelties drive her towards attempted suicide and hospitalization. She unknowingly captivates her sister's husband, a video artist. She becomes the focus of his increasingly erotic and unhinged artworks, while spiralling further and further into her fantasies of abandoning her fleshly prison and becoming - impossibly, ecstatically - a tree. The Vegetarian is a novel about modern day South Korea, but also a novel about shame, desire and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another (https://www.amazon.ca/Vegetarian-Novel-Han-Kang-ebook/dp/B00R1BRKDG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463433401&sr=8-1&keywords=the+vegetarian).
For more information about the award, the novel and the novelist and translator, go to http://themanbookerprize.com/international/news/vegetarian-wins-man-booker-international-prize-2016. (I outlined the six finalists in my April 14th blog entry: http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/2016/04/man-booker-international-prize-shortlist.html).