The period of hazy dreams and visions that led to hermetism, art for art's sake and purely formal research was over. . . . An artist's genius lay not in plumbing the depths of his own individual soul divorced from social relationships, and producing works devoid of content; but in sharpening his sensitivity and setting his imagination to work out the endless material furnished by social life. . . . Apolitical literature was out of the question. (142)
Vo~ Phie^'n surveys this southern literature so casually dismissed by the communist commentators, making no extravagant claims but revealing its rich variety. He explains how during this period (from 1954--1975) contact with the West increased greatly and "transformed our society, our way of life, our very conception of human existence" and in the process "whetted our intellectual curiosity and excited our creative spirit" (87). Some writers abandoned the traditional delicacy and subtlety in matters of sex and love and wrote daring love stories. Others explored philosophical and religious themes. Some began to experiment with reportage and memoirs. Vo~ Phie^'n observes that although during this 20-year period people in the North were also living through terrible circumstances, there was no hint of crisis in their works--no "spiritual perturbation, no frantic philosophical and religious searches, no heart-rending cries of pain and despair" (80). Instead we get works with characters who "look as if they have just been dragged out from civics and ethics textbooks or from government training and propaganda material" (81).
Interestingly, this same criticism of socialist realism is now being voiced by northerners, including Nguye^~n Kha('c Vie^.n. Several of the writers included in his collection--Nguye^~n Minh Cha^u, Nguye^n Ngo.c, Nguye^~n DDi`nh Thi and Le^ Lu+'u--are now associated with the contemporary Renovation movement, a movement that at least for a brief period (especially 1987-89) resulted in the publishing of works that provide more honest, less propagandistic views of the war and its aftermath (See articles by Nguye^~n Hu+ng Quo^'c and Phu+o+ng Kie^n Khanh below). Assigning these two literary histories will expose students to two approaches to literary history that differ greatly in style and content and also provide background information useful when they encounter examples of socialist realism, Renovation literature, and works from the South.
A collection of translations of short stories; critical essays; reports of historical, literary, and medical (AIDS in Vietnam) research; and autobiographical sketches and poems by Vietnamese living abroad, including examples of work selected in a literary contest run by the Yale [University] Vietnamese Students Association. Contains translations by Peter Zinoman of the three stories by Nguye^~n Huy Thie^.p that deal irreverently with important Vietnamese historical figures and are believed to have caused Hanoi political leaders to re-impose restrictions that were loosened as part of the Renovation movement (The stories are "Kie^'m Sa('c" [A Sharp Sword], "Va`ng Lu+?a" [Fired Gold], and "Pha^?m Tie^'t" [Chastity]). Includes two critical essays on Nguye^~n Huy Thie^.p's work. Earlier literary periods represented with translations (with critical commentary) of key works.
Provides excellent critical readings of nine Vietnamese exile narratives which are compared and contrasted to Euro-American works on the war. After the introduction comes a chapter on Vietnamese exile narratives which are seen as differing from Euro-American narratives in their stress on biculturality and communality. Chapter 3 describes the cultural stereotyping of Asians in the U. S. from 1848 through World War II. Chapter 4 explains how Vietnamese are represented in Euro-American works on the war. Although Christopher doesn't discuss works by Vietnamese still living in Vietnam, this is an indispensable work for teachers who wish to compare and contrast American and Vietnamese perspectives.
Surveys women writers and describes their major works. Unfortunately, only a very few works by these writers have been translated, though Banerian's Vietnamese Short Stories contains a story by Nha~ Ca and one by Nguye^~n Thi. Vinh. And he has also translated Nha~ Ca's novel At Night I Hear the Cannons [DDe^m Nghe Tie^'ng DDa.i Ba'c] (See Section VIII).
Updated (to cover developments up to 1975) and translated edition of a work originally published in French in 1969. A readable survey of the complete span of Vietnamese literature from its early beginnings to modern times. Chapters on the modern period, however, are brief and overemphasize the contributions of northern writers: little information on developments in the south is included.
Describes a group of poets who wrote romantic, melancholy poems in the 30's and then joined the communist revolution, repudiated their earlier work, and, guided by Tru+o+`ng Chinh's advice, began turning out poems fashioned as "cultural bazookas" for the cause. Their life story highlights the conflict between individualism and community that pre-dates both Indochina wars but underlies them both. The information here also appears in Jamieson's Understanding Vietnam (See Section VI), but here his account of these poets is more focused--not mixed with discussion of other figures and issues.
Contrasts works written during 1975-1985 with the socialist realism produced earlier and with works that started to emerge with the Renovation movement after 1986. Argues that while some writers during the 1975- 85 period (Nguye^~n Minh Cha^u, Nguye^~n Ma.nh Tua^'n, for example) began to abandon socialist realism, they made only "halfway changes." Fuller liberation (later checked by the Party) is revealed in the works of Le^ Lu+'u, Du+o+ng Thu Hu+o+ng, Pha.m Thi. Hoa`i and especially Nguye^~n Huy Thie^.p.
The largets anthology of Vietnamese literature in English. Includes 157 pages of commentary organized by period: 10th to 17th century, 18th and early 19th centuries, the period from 1858 to 1945, and the recent period (1945 to 1975). The rest of the book is "Authors and Texts"--sample works (poetry and prose) preceded by short biographical sketches of the authors. Includes a useful chronological table and an index of works and names. Marr mentions several faults: some translations are weak, the result of double-translation first to French then to English, and the commentary is "heavily laden with Marxist-Leninist and patriotic presuppositions" (Vietnam, p. 304). Selections from recent work reveal Party bias. Interestingly, Nguye^~n Kha('c Vie^.n and Hu+~u Ngo.c and many of the writers of socialist realism they anthologize are leading figures in the Renovation movement. A new edition in preparation includes the famous "Renovation" authors.
A collection of articles and speeches by an important member of the politburo and leading Marixt-Leninist ideologue. Originally published in 1946. In a section entitled "Marxism and Vietnamese Culture," the author defines socialist realism and the proper role of a revolutionary writer.
Originally published in Vietnamese in 1986. Surveys the major trends and writers from the non-communist central and southern part of the country. Contrasts the free-wheeling, individualistic atmosphere of the South with the enforced uniformity in the North. Includes a useful section on the major genres: novel, essay, poetry, plays, and reportage. The final section is an alphabetical listing of major writers and their works with some biographical information. A critical work, not an anthology. Only a very few of the many works mentioned have been translated.
Yale University Council on Southeast Asia Studies
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