#WITMonth Day 3: Han Kang

Han Kang is a South Korean poet and novelist, born in Gwangju in 1970 and currently living outside Seoul with her son. She studied literature at Yonsei University and began her writing career when five of her poems were features in the quarterly Literature and Society in 1993. The following year, her novel Red Anchor won the Seoul Spring Literary Contest.

Her first novel to be translated into English, The Vegetarian, the story of a woman who renounces eating meat with dramatic consequences, won the Man Booker International Prize in 2016, and was made into a critically-acclaimed film. In 2016, Han’s novel Human Acts was published in English translation. Inspired by the 1980 massacre of student protesters in Han’s birthplace of Gwangju, it received widespread critical acclaim, and will be followed by Han’s third novel to appear in English, The White Book, later this year.

Han Kang’s writing is often described as subversive or disquieting. Her controlled, elegant style contrasts with the extremity of her character’s lives, which often leads to violent extremes in her narratives, depicting human cruelty, trauma, personal rebellion, unresolved pasts and tortured presents. Her novels have been beautifully rendered in English by her award-winning translator Deborah Smith, with whom she has formed a close partnership.

Recommended reading

The following titles by Han Kang are currently available in English translation:

Human Acts, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith (Portobello Books, 2015)

The Vegetarian, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith (Portobello Books, 2016)