Tag Archives: Vietnam

How The Best Asian Short Stories 2019 Explores the Souk of Asia’s Imagination

Book review by Tan Kaiyi


With the rise of the Asian Century, the global community typically shines its spotlight on the economic progress of the region. Much is made of the advancing wealth of nations like India, China, Singapore and Vietnam. But while the economic progress is an easy unifying narrative that could be woven through the different countries, equally important — but much more challenging — is charting the breadth and depth of the Asian literary imagination.

The Best Asian Short Stories 2019 is up to the monumental task. The editor of the anthology, award-winning author Hisham Bustani, highlights the main obstacle to the endeavour when assembling the collection:

“…there is no such thing as a well-defined, self-contained, concrete, unified Asian identity…”

He explains the issue by contrasting it with Europe. While similar to Asia with a geography that contains multiple language and cultures, the region “claims a unique identity and set of ‘European values’ that separate it from others…” This consequently gives a literary landscape in the region a halo of universalism. Whether it is true at heart or not is certainly up for debate, as Bustani rightly points out that some communities like Turkey are isolated from the Eurocentric ideological bloc. Read more

Short Story: Mountain Maid by Eldar Sattarov

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

Our ascent to the mountain peak was predictably long and tortuous. I was sweating and blaspheming in my mind, trying to maintain my balance and resisting my inner urge to give up the climb. My snowboard grew heavy on my shoulders and it was painfully bumping against my spine. When we had left careless shrieks of the skiing crowd far behind, it suddenly started snowing. Fluffy snowflakes were melting on my face and infiltrating unpleasantly under my collar. I could hardly see Clara, purposefully making her way through the thick lace of the snowfall curtain enveloping the earth all around us. That is why, when she suddenly stopped, I bumped into her nearly causing us both to fall into the abyss below. She stood there immobile, her hand raised in a warning sign.

“I think I saw her,” she said in a low voice. “Who?”

“The Mountain Maid.” Read more

The Orange County writer who saved Vietnam’s wartime literature, poem by poem, dies

When the Communist forces pushed into Saigon in the final days of the Vietnam War, Vo Phien sensed that his country’s past was about to be erased. Books would be burned, history lessons rewritten, entire cities stripped of their names.

Fearful of what was to come, he resolved to collect and preserve literary treasures, essays that had appeared in newspapers and magazines, books that might soon be banned, even diaries — anything that captured the raw emotions and nervous energy of wartime.

What emerged years later, after he landed in America as a refugee with little more than his wife and teenage daughter, is a volume of Vietnamese writings that otherwise might have vanished.

Vo, a prolific Vietnamese writer himself who made a living crunching numbers for the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Assn., died Tuesday at a medical facility in Santa Ana. He was 89, though in Vietnamese culture he was considered to be 90 based on the lunar calendar.

Among Vietnamese Americans, Vo is considered one of the diaspora’s towering literary minds, someone with an eye for the melancholy of the era, a writer who captured the rich detail of the culture, Vietnamese village life and the war itself.

But it was the exhaustive collection “Van Hoc Mien Nam, Tong Quan,” an overview of South Vietnamese literature from 1954 to 1975, that endeared him to fellow expatriates. The book featured the work of more than 200 authors and documented the period’s artistic and literary movements. Its 1999 debut was followed by six other books exploring genres such as poetry and plays.

Born Doan The Nhon on Oct. 20, 1925, Vo grew up in Binh Dinh, a province in Central Vietnam. By the time he was 20, he had joined the anti-French revolutionary movement but became disenchanted with communism and went to work in the Ministry of Information for the Republic of Vietnam.

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Vietnam: Mai Văn Phấn poet wins Cikada award

Hải Phòng-based Mai Văn Phấn has become the second poet from Việt Nam to be honoured with the prestigious Cikada Prize.

Established in 2004, the Cikada Prize is awarded to an East Asian poet who “in his/her poems shows poetic sensitivity for the inviolability of life”. The prize was founded on the 100th birth anniversary of Swedish Nobel Prize laureate (in literature, 1974) Harry Martinson. The winner gets SEK 20,000 (US$2,200) and a ceramic art piece made by Swedish artist Gunilla Sundström.

The Swedish Institute finances the award, which is presented by the Ambassador or Consul General of Sweden in the country where the recipient resides. Read more

Source: Vietnam News


Book review: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees tells eight tales of Vietnamese migrants

By Malcolm Forbes

There is a section in Ways of Escape where Graham Greene casts back to the early 1950s and discusses his love affair with Indochina in general and Vietnam in particular. He singles out Saigon’s opium fumeries, gambling houses and elegant girls, and the overall “feeling of exhilaration which a measure of danger brings to the visitor with a return ticket”.

That measure of danger would soon intensify, convulsing the country and displacing many of its people. In The Refugees, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s first collection of short stories and follow-up to his 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel The Sympathizer, the focus is not on visitors to Vietnam with return tickets but Vietnamese migrants who have fled war on a one-way trip to a better future in the United States.

In these times of looking inward and shutting out, of breaking down bridges and building walls, Nguyen’s eight stark and incisive tales provide valuable, necessary insight into the pain and upheaval of exchanging a homeland for an adopted other.
Nguyen – who was born in Vietnam and raised in the US – opens the proceedings with one his strongest stories. Black-Eyed Women introduces us to a ghostwriter who looks back on her youth in Vietnam, “a haunted country”, and is then visited by the ghost of her brother, who died decades ago on the fishing boat which carried her to her current safe haven. Read more
Source: The National

Chinese literature scores a hit with Vietnamese

Of all the foreign influences in Vietnam, there is plenty of evidence that Chinese culture isamong the strongest.

Many of the major bookstores in Hanoi, for example, display their selection of translatedChinese literature in the most coveted, high-profile spots. The study of the Chinese languageis increasing, courses at Vietnamese colleges are crowded with students and almost alluniversities have established Chinese faculties. Additionally, Chinese language contests areswamped with hundreds of competitors, and thousands of Vietnamese students takeexchange trips to China each year. Read more

Volunteers guard stone turtles at Hanoi’s Temple of Literature

VietNamNet Bridge – Students are flocking to Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) in Hanoi before the university entrance exams to touch the head of stone turtles to wish for good luck. But this year the turtles are being guarded by a dozen volunteers.

On the days before the university entrance exams, which begin today – July 4, hundreds of high school graduates went to Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam (the first university in Vietnam) to wish for good luck. Read more

Vietnam: UK poet arrives for Literature Days

Aoife Mannix, a recognisable voice on the UK live literature scene, has arrived in Viet Nam for the European Literature Days 2014 that begins May 22.

Mannix held a workshop on creative writing yesterday with Vietnamese writers and readers at the British Council in HCM City, and will speak today at another workshop at the English department of the HCM City Foreign Languages and Information Technology University on how to use literature in English teaching. Read more

Vietnamese students fed up with literature lessons

VietNamNet Bridge – General school teachers have admitted that literature lessons do not appeal to their students.

A photo published in a local newspaper in April of last year drove this issue home to the public. Tens of students, upon learning that they would not have to take the history exam, are seen tearing up their history textbooks and throwing papers into the air in the school’s yard.

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Vietnam: Distinguished author sets up literature fund

The first-ever private literature fund initiated by a Vietnamese writer was announced on Tuesday, bearing the name of the Ha Noi-based writer Le Luu: Vietnamnet

“The fund aims to encourage Vietnamese writers to focus on the two topics of businessmen/enterprises and farmers/agriculture in the doi moi (renovation) period [since 1986],” Luu was quoted as saying by The Thao & Van Hoa (Sports & Culture) daily. Read more

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