Image: Do Thanh Lang, Emotion Chart 5, acrylic on glossy pp synthetic paper, April 2014. By arrangement with the artist.
This month we bring you writing from Vietnam. The prose writers and poets here explore and depict lives shaped by the country’s fraught politics as well as by their own personal histories. Poet and literary critic Nhã Thuyên escorts us through the poetic underground. In two wildly contrasting portraits of marriage, Bùi Ngọc Tấn pens a gentle ode to lifelong love, and Trần Dần observes a household torn apart by infidelity and political betrayal. Trần Thị NgH’s wry divorcée looks back at her checkered romantic past, while Dương Nghiễm Mậu unfurls a hallucinatory reunion. Poets P.K., Pháp Hoan, and Nguyễn Hoàng Quyên suggest the vitality of the poetic scene in Vietnam today. Guest editors Nhã Thuyên and Kaitlin Rees contribute an illuminating introduction. Elsewhere we present writing on mourning and remembrance.
Presences, Ruins, Silences: Writing from Vietnam
Silence, among Vietnamese authors, seems to have become a compelling tradition.
The passion and blind devotion are no longer. The ending is near.
(Un)contextualizing Underground Poetry: Reimagining a Critical Community
I don't want to put underground poetry into a concrete conflict with mainstream poetry.
A Chair on a Highway on a Rainy Afternoon
a chair standing by itself on a highway means its life is over
The Sitting Woman
I had just finished reading Francoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse and he had imagined me as Odile from André Maurois’ Climats.
Dissonant music lingers in the bodiless ear of the present tense
From “Crossroads and Lampposts”
He said it was politics disguised as debauchery.
Somewhere Better Than This Place Nowhere Better Than This Place
We have found in the deterioration of flesh and bones a spiritual liberation
Does he know I intend to murder him?
Reviewed by Susan Aberth
Edited by Mary Ann Caws, this anthology delivers new insights into this radical movement and rectifies past omissions to its canon with more intellectually daring and provocative non-French and female voices.
Reviewed by Andrew Hungate
This collection of early stories by the celebrated Chinese author shows a writer determined to make a name for himself in a literary world that at the time was rife with experimentation.