The Stars, the Earth, the River: Short Stories

Overview


This collection of 14 stories--each a harrowing sketch of the Vietnam War and its aftermath-- offers American readers a glimpse offamiliar territory, but from an unfamiliar perspective. Often writing from a young woman's point of view, Le Minh Khue, a war veteran who served in the Youth Volunteers Brigade, uses simple, understated prose to describe numbing horrors:

"There were three of us. Three girls. We lived in a cavern at the foot of a strategic hill ... Our job was to sit there. Whenever a bomb exploded, we...

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Overview


This collection of 14 stories--each a harrowing sketch of the Vietnam War and its aftermath-- offers American readers a glimpse offamiliar territory, but from an unfamiliar perspective. Often writing from a young woman's point of view, Le Minh Khue, a war veteran who served in the Youth Volunteers Brigade, uses simple, understated prose to describe numbing horrors:

"There were three of us. Three girls. We lived in a cavern at the foot of a strategic hill ... Our job was to sit there. Whenever a bomb exploded, we had to run up, figure out how much earth was needed to fill the hold, count the unexploded bombs, and, if necessary, detonate them. They called us the Ground Reconnaissance Team. That title inspired in us a passion to do heroic deeds and therefore our work was not that simple." So begins the first story, "Distant Stars."

Born in 1949, Le Minh Khue was no stranger to the vagaries of Land Reform politics and war. Colored by her stint as a war correspondent in Vietnam, Khue's level gaze lingers over the shambles of a war-torn country and its reconstruction to examine the soul of a people whose culture has all but been destroyed.

The Stars, the Earth, the River contains an excellent introduction by the translators, grounding the stories in Le Minh Khue's personal history; the narrator of "A Day on the Road" speaks from having witnessedthe carnage of war. You simultaneously feel the rage of the author and the narrator when Khue disparagingly notes that the conversations around her center on luxuries, motor scooters, and business deals. Of what use, these stories ask, is such suffering? How can a culture honor the losses of war?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The author is revealed as a fine, spare stylist with a flaire for satire." -- New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As a journalist who covered the Vietnam War and its aftermath, and later as a prominent writer in Vietnam, Khue has witnessed her compatriots at their noblest and most venal. Throughout this collection of 14 stories, she unearths secrets assiduously buried in the psyches of her characters. These may be a tenderness too fragile to reveal, emotions long forgotten or a passionate love too frightening to admit. Often, they are greedy manipulation, duplicity and selfishness so wantonly immoral it would wreak disaster were it known by others. Khue is fascinated by the odd contradictions in human nature, particularly those that are tragic and self-defeating. She is as deft at evoking the bonds of sisterhood among three teenage girls working as North Vietnamese sappers during the war ("The Distant Stars") as she is at portraying the fratricidal envy that erupts between the families of twin brothers ("The Almighty Dollar"). Measuring her culture against an alien and invasive Western one, she distills both, able to see alike their uniqueness and commonality. The stories never blame savagery on poverty or deprivation, arguing instead that human character matters. There is a bleakness to this collection, a blasted feel that comes in war's wake, relieved by genuine but brief interjections of wonder. Through her stories, Khue exposes a Vietnam more vital and complex than the stereotypes that linger in the minds of many Westerners. (Apr.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781880684474
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1997
  • Series: Voice from Vietnam Series
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Le Minh Khue, one of the leading writers of Vietnam, is currently an editor at the Vietnam Writers' Association Publishing House in Hanoi. A veteran of the American/Vietnam War, she served as a member of the Youth Volunteers Brigade (Sappers) and as a war correspondent.
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Table of Contents

Introduction
Translators' Note
The Distant Stars 1
The Blue Sky 21
A Day on the Road 37
Scenes from an Alley 55
Fragile as a Sunray 64
Rain 69
The Almighty Dollar 76
The Last Rain of the Monsoon 97
Tony D 117
A Very Late Afternoon 135
The Coolie's Tale 150
An Evening Away from the City 158
A Small Tragedy 178
The River 218
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2001

    Great Writer, Poor Translation

    Interesting stories but a limp translation. The translators' ears seemed to be tuned to the rhythm of the Vietnamese language but the patterns don't come across well into English. Time and again I was brought up short by awkward wording, making it hard to keep focused on the stories themselves. It makes for very hard going. Such a talent author deserves better.

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