or, ‘You can (sometimes!) judge a book by its cover’.
I wrote about this strange, beautiful and radical book a while ago but it was only when I attended a recent signing event with Han Kang that I began to appreciate the wonderful cover of this, the first British edition of the novel. While we waited for the author to appear the person I was sat next to commented on my edition of the novel, noting that they hadn’t seen this version before. Glancing at the version clasped in their excited hands, I noticed just how dull the cover had become in comparison:
The cover of ‘The Vegetarian’ is designed by Tom Darracott and is as beautiful and disturbing as the novel it contains. At first you are drawn to the exhuberance of the blooms, the pulsating pull of the petals, enticing while delicate protuberances excite with their thrusting energy. In many ways this initial impression brings to mind the sensual, lusty paintings of Georgia O’Keefe, whose flowers often displayed a hazy, luxuriant, vibrant and pungent impression of female genitalia, take, for example, ‘Red Amarilis’:
But then, take a closer look: see the bloom below the title: is that blood seeping from its heart and down its stem? A lascivious tongue replaces a petal. Fingers peep out form behind the flower: in prayer? And what of the eyeball watching from behind the foliage? A fly hovers on a petal, attracted to the pungent aromas, or perhaps the slab of flesh which lingers dead, amongst all this pulsating vegetable life.
Moving from Georgia O’Keefe I now see that the cover is also reminiscent of the work of Linder Sterling, an artist perhaps best known for her ‘cut up’ style which grafts flora and household objects onto human flesh to create stunning commentaries on gender and sexuality, much like this wonderful, strange, exciting and thought provoking novel.