When covers of translation are done 100% right. Han Kang’s “Vegetarian”

A while ago on this blog I was semi-complaining about the cover for Kyung-sook Shin’s new book. You can see that semi-whine here.

So it was with great happiness that I show the following two book covers for Han Kang’s awesome and terrifying novel Vegetarian.  While the Shin cover is cliches in search of a market, the first Han Kang cover is subverted cliches in search of marketing, and brilliant.

Cover of Han Kang's "Vegetarian"


How many ways is that awesome?  It takes the floral cliche of Asian book covers and with a subversion that is only obvious as you get closer, turns the cliche into an utterly compelling and creepy cover. The cover also works as a cover for a horror story – which Vegetarian manifestly is. But most important, it also reveals the serious nature of the book. The tongue in the blossom, the glossy steak that seems just about to drip blood, and the fingertips in a semi-prayer position?

You know this book is dead-serious, about ‘Asian’ topics, and terrifying.

That’s a 105% percent performance.^^

Then, on Barbara J Zitwer’s rocking FB page I see a second cover:

Cover to Han Kang's "The Vegetarian"



Now.. there’s another piece of art.  The leaf delicately laced to suggest a circulatory system or marbled meat and the wing torn from a dove.

Brilliant! I’ll even give that cover credit for slyly name-checking Yi Sang’s Wings and the myth of Icarus.

That’s how you do cover art.  These are game-upping covers and I couldn’t be happier unless I had a decent Margarita.^^