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Paradise of the Blind
     

Paradise of the Blind

by Duong Thu Huong
 

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Paradise of the Blind is an exquisite portrait of three Vietnamese women struggling to survive in a society where subservience to men is expected and Communist corruption crushes every dream. Through the eyes of Hang, a young woman in her twenties who has grown up amidst the slums and intermittent beauty of Hanoi, we come to know the tragedy of her family

Overview

Paradise of the Blind is an exquisite portrait of three Vietnamese women struggling to survive in a society where subservience to men is expected and Communist corruption crushes every dream. Through the eyes of Hang, a young woman in her twenties who has grown up amidst the slums and intermittent beauty of Hanoi, we come to know the tragedy of her family as land reform rips apart their village. When her uncle Chinh‘s political loyalties replace family devotion, Hang is torn between her mother‘s appalling self–sacrifice and the bitterness of her aunt who can avenge but not forgive. Only by freeing herself from the past will Hang be able to find dignity –– and a future.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This staunchly unsentimental, evocative novel, originally published in Huong's native Vietnam and beautifully translated by Duong and McPherson, offers a narrative rich in detail and free of cliche. The author, who lives with her children in Hanoi, depicts the complexity of Vietnamese culture--the allegiance to family and ancestors, the symbolic value of food, class distinctions and the continuing sense of desperation mingled with pride. The protagonist, Hang, a physically fragile young woman of the '80s, recalls Hanoi in the previous decade. While there are subtle allusions to war and peacetime, Huong's focus is on the shifting, uneasy relationships between modernized Hang and her traditionalist mother, a merchant who peddles food; Hang's selfish, hypocritical uncle, a communist peasant; and Hang's comparatively wealthy, unconditionally loving aunt. Contrasts between young, old, urban and rural, help to convey the full variety of Vietnamese lifestyles. McPherson's introduction provides essential background information without spoiling the plot of Huong's unquestionably powerful tale. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Duong Thu Huong was once a member of Vietnam's Communist Youth Brigade and defended her country from Chinese attack in 1979. She has since been expelled from the Communist party, and her works are now banned in her country. Paradise of the Blind is her gripping story of a young girl growing up in contemporary Vietnam. Hang is a timid, thoughtful child often overwhelmed by the fierce love of her mother and her aunt. Her education cut short by family and economic pressures, Hang relinquishes her dreams and becomes an ``export worker'' in the Soviet Union. Through Hang's eyes we perceive the importance of family ties and understand the role that food, ritual, and ancestor worship play in Vietnamese society. We see the Communist legacy as relatives and friends turn on one another in an effort to become the ``king of the mountain,'' and we feel the pain of women living in a male-dominated society where they are on equal footing only with servants. Highly recommended for Asian studies and women's studies collections.-- Peggie Partello, Keene State Coll., N.H.
School Library Journal
YA-- Huong's exquisite book, banned in her own country, introduces readers to daily life in Vietnam under Communist rule in the 1970s. Readers will be captivated by this story of a young girl growing into womanhood under a regime that negates many of the people's old values and customs and tears families apart. Hang grows up seeking the name of her father and the circumstances of his disappearance and death. Concomitantly, her mother becomes more and more desperate and distant in her struggle to earn a living as a street snack seller, a job decried by Uncle Chinh, a loyal Communist, as reminiscent of old capitalist ways. Her mother is also tied to another remnant of the past; she will sacrifice health, food, and her own self-respect to cater to Chinh's needs and expects her daughter to do the same. As a young adult, Hang is sent to work in Russia, and the author describes that country with equal skill. The book captures the enormous beauty and sensory delights of this unique land, as well as the degradation and grim realities of the post-civil-war period. The translator's notes guide readers through the politics.-- Virginia Ryder, West Potomac High School, Fairfax County, VA
Joe Collins
The first Vietnamese novel published in the U.S. comes with a large dose of hoopla, and it's all richly deserved, for "Paradise of the Blind" is a poetic gem. Duong Thu Huong, already the premier novelist in her native land, brings to American readers the work of an accomplished writer, yet her characters and settings will seem new. Hang, the protagonist and narrator, is a young woman from a small town in Vietnam, who relates her relationships with her mother and her aunt. Tam, the aunt, is the sister of a father Hang never knew, and her friction with Hang's mother propels the story, much of which is set against the backdrop of the early days of Communist rule. The Communist incursion is symbolized by Hang's uncle Chinh, who ultimately drives her father from the village and virtually bankrupts her mother.The imagery is vivid, and much of it revolves around the sharing of food, one of many notable Vietnamese traditions set forth in "Paradise of the Blind". In addition, kudos are in line for the book's two fine translators.With the forthcoming opening of diplomatic relations with Vietnam, a book like this can go a long way toward creating understanding between the two cultures; it's a pleasure to report that this novel delivers the goods.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780688114459
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/28/1993
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
270

Meet the Author

Duong Thu Huong is one of Vietnam's most popular writers. She was born in 1947, and at twenty volunteered to lead a Communist Youth Brigade sent to the front during the Vietnam War. During Chinas's 1979 attack on Vietnam, she also became the first woman combatant present on the front lines to chronicle the conflict. A vocal advocate of human rights and democratic political reform, Duong Thu Huong was expelled from the Vietnamese Communist party in 1989 and was imprisoned without trial in 1991 for her political beliefs. Paradise of the Blind is her fourth novel and her fourth novel to be effectively banned by the Vietnamese government. She is also the author of Novel Without a Name, which was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Duong Thu Huong is not allowed to leave Vietnam. She lives and writes in Hanoi.

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