The Three Fates

Overview

An intensely lively and piquant novel about a Vietnamese family, The Three Fates concerns rivalries and jealousies, strange motives and destructive passions.
The three fates—now three Vietnamese “princesses” in France—were spirited away as little children by their powerful grandmother when Saigon fell to the communists. Now the two sisters and their cousin await the arrival of their father and uncle, still marooned in his little blue house in the old country. “Leave King Lear ...

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Overview

An intensely lively and piquant novel about a Vietnamese family, The Three Fates concerns rivalries and jealousies, strange motives and destructive passions.
The three fates—now three Vietnamese “princesses” in France—were spirited away as little children by their powerful grandmother when Saigon fell to the communists. Now the two sisters and their cousin await the arrival of their father and uncle, still marooned in his little blue house in the old country. “Leave King Lear alone, I’d told my cousins,” our principal narrator (an intellectual who has lost a hand) informs us: “They had neglected him for twenty years and now they were conspiring like a pair of Cordelias to bestow one last joy on the old monarch: he hadn’t asked for it.” From a luxurious home in the French countryside, his two daughters (the elder, very pregnant and restlessly cooking and eating, kept company by her long-legged and icy younger sister) plot to drag their father halfway around the world – away from his poverty and from his only friend and the grilled eels they happily devour together – to flaunt their success. Scathingly unsentimental, The Three Fates transposes Shakespearean tragedy into a contemporary idiom and a decidedly different culture. A sharply vivacious book about “the bitch of fate,” The Three Fates—like a witches’ pot on the boil—brews up from displaced lives a darkly funny and agitated concatenation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
French-Vietnamese-born Lê (Slander) weaves a dense, lush tale exploring the chasm between West and East, between the lives of pampered immigrants and the family left behind. Three young French-Vietnamese women—two sisters, one cousin—conspire over a boring summer Sunday afternoon to bring the sisters’ father from Saigon to France to visit. Described as “a pair of Cordelias” to the “tired, broken” King Lear, abandoned 20 years before in Saigon by the “runaway” daughters, the sisters and their cousin are thoroughly assimilated into French society. While they are tallying up the expenses of the potential visit, and poring over the father’s letters in Vietnamese, which they can barely read, back in a vastly changed Saigon, old King Lear is haunted by their absence—since his wealthy and terrifying mother-in-law, Lady Jackal, had spirited them away when the Communists took over. The narrative moves with a compelling, hypnotic, repetitive energy, as it becomes clear that both camps are entrenched and immovable. Lê writes in choked, purple sentences that prove to be both a challenge and an insightful reward. (June)
The New York Times Book Review
“Lê offers proof that alienation, in the right hands, can be exquisite.”
Le Monde
“The Three Fates is a shimmering, twilit, fabulous crossing [with] a spectacular talent for caustic and cruel, sadistic and infinitely exact portraits. Properly amazing, colorful, bewitching, [and] irresistibly funny.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811216104
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 6/29/2010
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Le was born in Dalat, South Vietnam in 1963, and moved to France with her mother, grandmother, and three sisters in 1977. One of the most celebrated authors in Paris, she has published a dozen books.

Mark Polizzotti is a prize-winning translator, and the author of eight books, including Revolution of the Mind: A Life of André Breton. His translations include works by Jean Echenoz, Paul Virilio, Jean Baudrillard, Raymond Roussel, Maurice Roche, Gustave Flaubert, Jen Senac, and the Surrealists.

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