Vietnam: A Traveler's Literary Companion

Vietnam: A Traveler's Literary Companion

by John Balaban
     
 

Since relations between the U.S. and Vietnam have normalized, many more people are traveling to this exotic country, previously closed to a generation of Western visitors. Vietnam provides one of the first chances for Americans to know the Vietnamese outside the context of war. Vietnamese have been telling stories for thousands of years, in poetry and in

Overview

Since relations between the U.S. and Vietnam have normalized, many more people are traveling to this exotic country, previously closed to a generation of Western visitors. Vietnam provides one of the first chances for Americans to know the Vietnamese outside the context of war. Vietnamese have been telling stories for thousands of years, in poetry and in song, in Chinese script and then in Vietnamese nôm, and more recently, in novels and short stories. These 17 stories, from contemporary Vietnamese writers living in Vietnam and abroad, take the literary traveler to extraordinary places: from the jungle-clad mountain ranges of the North to the mysterious silence of the old capital along the Perfume River. Proximity of the spirit world, love of family, exhaustion from war, one's Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist obligations, social protest, and the hunger for a better life — these are some of the concerns to be encountered in these thrilling landscapes. Contributors include Nguyen Huy Thiep, Linh Bao, Nguyen Ba Trac, Thich Duc Thien, Ho Anh Thai, Le Minh Khue, Doan Quoc Sy, Vu Bao, Duong Thu Huong, Andrew Q. Lam, Nguyen Qui Duc, Qui The, Bao Ninh, and Pham Thi Hoai.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The idea behind this series is simple and elegant: Explore a place like Vietnam (or, as in past volumes, Costa Rica or Prague) not through maps or guidebooks but through the writings of that country's best writers Although there is a section called "Remembrance," the 17 short stories don't dwell exclusively on the recent war but instead include section that focus on topographies (Jungles, Rivers, Villages) or cities (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City). Although every contribution is strong, certain ones stand out. In "Salt of the Jungle," Nguyen Huy Thiep describes a slightly surreal story of a man hunting a monkey in mesmerizing prose. ("At around this time, your feet sink into carpets of rotting leaves, you inhale pure air, and, sometimes, your body shudders with pleasure, because a drop of water has struck your bare shoulder.") Le Minh Khue's "A Small Tragedy'' of a catastrophe befalling a powerful family is a more urban drama, one that gives a sense of the uneasy balance between a mystical past and industrialized future in present-day Vietnam. And "Scent of the Tiger," by Qui The, a tragic romantic tale about a college professor and his tiger-tamer wife, evokes a melancholy that seems uniquely Vietnamese. According to Balaban, "While Vietnamese have been telling stories about themselves for 2000 years... almost all of that literary expression has been through poetry. . . . Thus the Western-style short story and novel are fairly recent acquisitions." It is this poetry stated or implied at the heart of every story that makes this collection worthwhile. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Fiction can convey a sense of place and culture, as it does in this fresh collection of 17 recent short stories written by Vietnamese and set in Vietnam. Most of the stories are translated from the Vietnamese (the others are written by Vietnamese Americans in English) and provide a window through which to view the country today. These are not stories of politics or war, although the characters lives' have been very much disrupted by those events. The stories concern the everyday life of the people in the cities and villages. Of special poignancy are the stories of Viet-kieus, or Vietnamese Americans, going back to visit their families. Three more such collections-on Costa Rica, Prague, and Israel-will soon be available from the publisher. Librarians should welcome this series of modestly priced books to both their travel sections and their multicultural fiction collections.-Harold M. Otness, Southern Oregon State Coll. Lib., Ashland
School Library Journal
YA-- Unlike so many recent books, this one does not deal with the Vietnam conflict. Instead, it's a basic pictorial travelogue that investigates a country most Americans have never experienced--Vietnam at peace. Balaban's text explores the history, culture, geography, and people in a concise manner, which nicely accents Clifford's vivid photographs. No battlefields or war ruins are included--only scenes of the lush countryside, people, and places of worship. --Elise Vidal, Episcopal High School, Bellaire, TX

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781883513023
Publisher:
Whereabouts Press
Publication date:
10/28/1996
Series:
Traveler's Literary Companions
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
1,250,560
Product dimensions:
5.02(w) x 7.36(h) x 0.72(d)

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