Written by Moraa Gitaa
Created: 17 May 2016
Author Han Kang
South Korea’s Han Kang was last night announced winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for Fiction for her novel The Vegetarian. The novel was translated by Deborah Smith and is published by Portobello Books. Portobello Books was one of three independent publishers with novels on this year’s shortlist. The Man Booker International Prize awards both author and translator prize money of £25,000.00 and a trophy. The short-listed authors also receive a further £1,000.00. It’s been quite a journey since the short-list 2016 Man Booker International Prize Short-List Announced was announced early last month.
This is the first year that the Man Booker International Prize has been awarded on the basis of a single book in collaboration with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. The £50,000 prize will be divided equally between the author and the translator.
Han currently teaches creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts. She has also been awarded the Yi Sang Literary Prize, Today's Young Artist Award, and the Korean Literature Novel Award. The Vegetarian is her first novel to be translated into English.
The Vegetarian is a cautionary three-part novel about Yeong-hye, a dutiful Korean wife who, spurred on by a dream, decides one day to become a vegetarian. This subversive act fractures her familial life and, as Yeong-hye’s rebellion manifests in increasingly bizarre and frightening forms, turns seemingly ordinary relationships into those driven by violence, shame and desire.
The winner was announced last night by critic and editor Boyd Tonkin at a dinner ceremony at the V & A. It was selected from 155 books by a panel of five judges, chaired by Boyd Tonkin and consisting of anthropologist and novelist Tahmima Anam, academic David Bellos, Professor of French and Comparative Literature and Director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, editor and academic Daniel Medin, who holds a comparative literature professorship at the American University of Paris (AUP), and prize-winning British poet and author Ruth Padel.
Boyd Tonkin who was the chair of the 2016 judging panel, said:
‘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 long-list, and a shortlist of six truly outstanding novels in first-rate translations, the judges unanimously chose The Vegetarian as our winner. Told in three voices, from three different perspectives, this concise, unsettling and beautifully composed story traces an ordinary woman’s rejection of all the conventions and assumptions that bind her to her home, family and society. In a style both lyrical and lacerating, it reveals the impact of this great refusal both on the heroine herself and on those around her. This compact, exquisite and disturbing book will linger long in the minds, and maybe the dreams, of its readers. Deborah Smith’s perfectly judged translation matches its uncanny blend of beauty and horror at every turn.’
Emmanuel Roman, CEO of Man Group, commented:
‘I would like to congratulate Han Kang and Deborah Smith, the first winners of the newly evolved Man Booker International Prize, as well as all of this year’s finalists. We are very proud to sponsor the Prize, which supports the recognition of talented authors and translators globally. The prize underscores Man Group's charitable focus on literacy and education and, together with the wider charitable activities of the Booker Prize Foundation, plays a very important role in promoting literary excellence on a global scale that we are honoured to support.’
In its prior form honouring a whole body of work published either originally in English or available in translation in the English language, the prize was won by Ismail Kadaré in 2005, Chinua Achebe in 2007, Alice Munro in 2009, Philip Roth in 2011, Lydia Davis in 2013, and László Krasznahorkai in 2015. The prize is sponsored by Man Group, which also sponsors the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Both prizes strive to recognise and reward the finest in contemporary literature.
It’s an exciting time for translated fiction as most recently a research conducted by Nielsen Book and commissioned by the Man Booker Prize demonstrates the rising popularity of translated fiction. You can read the report here: research results.
Congratulations to Han Kang!