Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Vietnamese Perspective
The following sources are recommended by a professor whose research specialty is the Vietnamese perspective of the Vietnam War.
· Bao Ninh. The Sorrow of War (Noi Buon Chien Tranh). English version by Frank Palmos based on the translation from the Vietnamese by Vo Bang Thanh and Phan Thanh Hao, with Katerina Pierce. Secker and Waraburg, 1991. Published in U.S. by Pantheon Books. Semi-autobiographical novel. Kiên, the leading character, is one of only ten survivors from the 27th Youth Brigade. A moving account of a man haunted by memories of lost comrades, by the "sorrow of having survived." It is also a love story, an account of his relationship with Phuong, his childhood sweetheart, whose life -- her fall from innocence into a joyless promiscuity -- suggests that the war destroyed everything that was pure and innocent. Some readers charge that the English text differs greatly from the original.
· Karlin, Wayne, Le Minh Khue, and Truong Vu, eds. The Other Side of Heaven: Post-War Fiction by Vietnamese and American Writers. Curbstone Press, 1995. A powerful (but grim) collection of fictional stories about the aftereffects of the war by both American and Vietnamese writers. Evolved from emotional meetings in Boston attended by American and Vietnamese writer-veterans who decided to produce this work of reconciliation. Given this purpose, it is ironic and sad that when the editors toured the U.S. to promote this book, there were demonstrations in some cities by anti-communist Vietnamese. Includes stories by Vietnamese exiles living in the U.S. as well as by Vietnamese from Vietnam. Selections take up the following concerns: "the need to tell the story, the grief of loss and the ways the dead continue to haunt the living, the psychologically and morally and physically wounded, the tragedy of exile, and, finally, the displaced, the lonely, the haunted, the trapped -- the children of the war" (xiv). Eleven selections are excerpts from longer works. No information is provided on the literary or historical context of the Vietnamese works -- only short biographical sketches of the authors -- but there is no better collection in English of post-war fiction by Vietnamese.
· Nguyen Khac Vien. The Long Resistance: 1858-1975. 2nd Edition. Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1978. An account from a Hanoi point of view of Vietnamese history from the loss of independence to the French to the "great spring victory" in April, 1975. Though definitely the Party view, it is more readable than historical accounts by many communist leaders. A good choice for teachers looking for a historical account that expresses the view of America's adversaries. The author, as director of the Foreign Languages Publishing House, was an official spokesman for Hanoi to the West.
· Nguyen Thi Dinh. No Other Road to Take (Khong Con Duong Nao Khac). Trans. by Mai Elliot. Data Paper No. 102. Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 1976. Memoir with some personal details by a woman who was a revolutionary leader in Ben Tre Province. She eventually became deputy commander of the National Liberation Front Armed Forces. A well researched introduction by Mai Elliot describes the historical context for the events described by the author.
· Schafer, John C. Vietnamese Perspectives on the War in Vietnam: An Annotated Bibliography of Works in English. Lac Viet Series 17. Yale University Council on Southeast Asia Studies, 1997. An annotated bibliography for college teachers who want to include works by Vietnamese in courses related to the Vietnam War. Most listed works are translations, but some have been written first in English. Primary focus is on the Second Indochina War, 1960-1975. Some works that relate only indirectly to the war are included to provide important historical, cultural, or literary information. There are eleven sections, grouping works by historical period (Colonial Period, Contemporary Literature, for example), genre (Historical Accounts, Literary History and Criticism, for example), or subject (Cultural Background, Imprisonment, for example). Each section begins with a brief essay, giving context and suggestions for teaching. The last section, a "List of Works Annotated," arranges all works alphabetically by author and directs the reader to the section where the work is annotated. http://www.yale.edu/seas/bibliography/
· World Wide Web Virtual Library for Vietnam. Maintained by Vern Weitzel, this is the best web site for topics related to Vietnam. Provides over 700 links to information about Vietnamese culture, history, culture, economy, government, law, etc. http://coombs.anu.edu.au/WWWVLPages/VietPages/WWWVL-Vietnam.html
-- NOTE: Four important criteria influenced my choices for this list of excellent sources. First, I wanted sources that would help readers put that part of the war in which the Americans were involved into a larger historical perspective. To accomplish this, I include works that discuss different historical periods, from colonial times to the aftermath of the war and the experience of exile. Second, I have attempted to represent a variety of gender, regional, and political perspectives. A third criterion has been literary value, admittedly a tricky criterion because decisions on quality are influenced by political and cultural assumptions, but the works included are works that I think either have literary merit or at least nicely reveal writers working under certain constraints imposed by the political moral order. My fourth criterion relates to genre. I've sought literature as opposed to straight history because I've found literature engages students more. I've also tried to present a combination of fiction and non-fiction.
-- THE COLONIAL PERIOD --
· Tran Tu Binh, as told to Ha An. The Red Earth: A Vietnamese Memoir of Life on a Colonial Rubber Plantation. Trans. by John Spragens, Jr. Ed. and introduced by David Marr. Ohio University Center for International Studies, 1985. Originally published in Vietnamese in 1964. Account of life on a rubber plantation by a man who later became a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Villains here are not, as in many translated accounts of this period, Vietnamese officials who cooperated with the French but the French themselves, particularly the cruel manager and the foreman of the rubber plantation who beat the workers and treated them like slaves. Introduction by David Marr.
· Ngo Vinh Long. Before the Revolution: The Vietnamese Peasants under the French. Columbia University Press, 1991. Analysis of the evils of colonialism and translations from novels and nonfiction that reveal these evils, particularly excessive taxation and monopolies that led to starvation. Most excerpts come from novels that Ngo Vinh Long calls "documentary fiction" (phong su tieu thuyet): fictionalized accounts of actual events.
· Nhat Linh. Breaking Off (Doan Tuyet). Trans. by James Banerian. San Diego: J. Banerian, 1997. Originally published in 1934. A fictional attack on traditional, primarily Confucian, family structure, it tells the story of Loan, a woman with modern ideas who suffers when forced to marry a man she does not love. Nhat Linh (real name: Nguyen Tuong Tam) was the leading writer of the Self-Strength Literary Group.
-- THE BEGINNINGS OF THE SECOND RESISTANCE --
· Truong Nhu Tang, with David Chanoff and Doan Van Toai. Vietcong Memoir. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985. An account by a wealthy southerner who took part in the formation of the National Liberation Front and became minister of justice under the Provisional Revolutionary Government. Later he became disillusioned with the communist regime and fled Vietnam by boat in 1978. Some historians believe that the author claims more credit for himself than is warranted, but this is a revealing, intriguing account of political and military developments within the NLF.
-- SOCIALIST REALISM --
· Nguyen Sang. "The Ivory Comb" (Chiec Luoc Nga). In The Ivory Comb. 2nd Edit. South Viet Nam: Giai Phong Publishing House, 1968. 113-136. The title story can also be found in Writing between the Lines: An Anthology on War and Its Social Consequences. Ed. Kevin Bowen and Bruce Weigl. University of Massachusetts Press, 1997. 16-24. A collection of short stories and excerpts from novels by southerners who joined the revolution. The title story is by Nguyen Quang Sang (pseudonym: Nguyen Sang). Also includes a short story by Nguyen Ngoc (pseudonym: Nguyen Trung Thanh) from his collection Rung Xa Nu (The Forest of Xa Nu Trees). All stories glorify revolutionary heroes in the fight against "My-Diem," the Americans and Ngo Dinh Diem.
· Anh Duc. Hon Dat. Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1969. A novel describing heroic revolutionary action around 1961 in a hamlet called Hon Dat in the western part of South Vietnam. The revolutionaries take refuge in a cave and with the help of the people withstand all attacks by Diem's soldiers and their American advisors. Affection between revolutionary families and cadre members is sometimes effectively rendered. ARVN commanders and Americans are stereotypical villains.
-- LITERATURE FROM THE NON-COMMUNIST SOUTH --
· Banerian, James, ed. and trans. Vietnamese Short Stories: An Introduction. Sphinx Publishing, 1986. A good sampling of short stories by some of the best writers, all non-communist. Banerian selects writers who are associated with the South politically but come from all three regions -- north, central, and south. Not all stories deal with the war directly. Contains several stories written in the '30s and '40s and so represents the colonial period as well as more recent writing.
· Nguyen Ngoc Bich, ed. and trans. War and Exile: A Vietnamese Anthology. Vietnamese PEN Abroad, 1989. A good collection of fiction, poetry, and essays. Some of the authors included appear also in Banerian's collection Vietnamese Short Stories.
-- RENOVATION (DOI MOI) LITERATURE --
· Duong Thu Huong. Novel without a Name (Tieu Thuyet Vo De). Trans. by Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPherson. William Morrow, 1995. Written in 1990, this is the author's second novel to be translated into English (first was Paradise of the Blind). Quan, the narrator and main character, describes his experiences as a captain in the army. Main narrative is an account by Quan of his trip home on leave and then his return to the front and more fighting that, by the end of the novel, has led to victory. Through flashbacks, dream sequences, and other devices we learn of earlier events: Quan's mother's death from typhoid when he was eight, his brother's death in battle, his childhood sweetheart's forced seduction by party officials. Though once an idealistic volunteer, the horrors of war have made Quan distrust the patriotic slogans of the revolution. Main themes, besides this attack on the rhetoric of war, are the persistence of love -- for one's comrades and family members -- and nostalgia for one's youth and for village life before the war.
· Nguyen Huy Thiep. The General Retires and Other Stories. Trans. by Greg Lockhart. Oxford University Press, 1992. A collection of eight stories by a Renovation writer considered by some critics to be Vietnam's first post-modern writer. Includes examples of what Lockhart calls mythical, historical, and realistic social fiction. The title story ("The General Retires"), his most famous, is narrated by the son of a general who has retired after a successful career in the army. The son describes his father's return to civilian life and the problems he encounters adapting to post-war society.
-- VIETNAMESE EXILE NARRATIVES --
· Le Ly Hayslip, with Jay Wurts. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace. Penguin, 1989. Autobiography by a woman from a small village outside DaNang. A moving account that reveals how the conflict was a civil war that tore families apart. The author helps the Viet Cong until she is wrongly suspected of helping the Republicans and is raped by two VC guards sent to execute her. While working as a maid in Saigon, she is seduced and made pregnant by her Vietnamese employer. Dismissed by the employer's wife, she survives by peddling goods and obtaining American boyfriends. Eventually an older American, a civilian employee of a construction firm, marries her and brings her to the U.S. The story ends in 1986 when she makes a return visit to Vietnam and is reunited with her family. An important work because it reveals how the war affected a peasant family from the countryside of the central region (most exile narratives are written by members of the educated elite from urban areas).
· Vo Phien. Intact (Nguyen Ven). Trans. by James Banerian. Vietnamese Language and Culture Publications, 1990. The story of Dung (pronounced Yoom), a young girl who, in the confusion surrounding Saigon's fall, gets separated from her family and fiance and comes to the U.S. alone. Eventually she reunites with her family in Minnesota, but not with her fiance who at the end of the book is still in Vietnam. Dung's separation from her fiance, which causes sadness, regret, and nostalgia, becomes a metaphor for the exile experience.
"The Infography about the Vietnamese Perspective on the Vietnam War"
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