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. Travel to the raucous mayhem of Saigon where youngsters still circle the downtown in motorcycle promenades and where the reopened bars, caught in a time warp, play old Creedence Clearwater and Carlos Santana songs. 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.

Here are the best writers of my country, north and south.

Le Ly Hayslip, author of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places

These stories convey something of the Vietnamese soul—its yearnings, its fears, its capacity for warmth, generosity and compassion, and its kinship with America. What a delight.

Robert Olen Butler, author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (Pulitzer Prize)

Uniformly excellent. . . . Virtually every story contains exquisitely drawn Vietnamese characters and redolently evoked Vietnamese landscapes.

The VVA Veteran

  • Jungles
    • Nguyen Huy Thiep, Salt of the Jungle
    • Duong Thu Huong, The Shelter
  • Hanoi
    • Pham Thi Hoai, The Saigon Tailor Shop
    • Ho Anh Thai, The Goat Meat Special
    • Le Minh Khue, A Small Tragedy
  • Rivers
    • Nguyen Huy Thiep, Crossing the River
    • Doan Quoc Sy, The Stranded Fish
    • Bao Ninh, A River’s Mystery
  • Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
    • Nguyen Qui Duc, The Color of Sorrow
  • Dalat
    • Andrew Q. Lam, Dark Wood and Shadows
  • Villages
    • Nguyen Huy Thiep, Remembrance of the Countryside
    • Thich Duc Thien, The Colonel
    • Vu Bao, How Long until the End of Bitterness?
  • Remembrance
    • Linh Bao, Dresses, Dresses
    • Nguyen Huy Thiep, Fired Gold
    • Quy The, Scent of the Tiger
    • Nguyen Ba Trac, The White Horse
  • 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
  • Quy The
  • Bao Ninh
  • Pham Thi Hoai

VIETNAM, edited by John Balaban and Nguyen Qui Duc, ISBN # 9781883513023

Excerpts to come.

Posted on 24 February 2010

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