Posts featuring Nguyễn Đức Tùng

Translation Tuesday: “The Woman by the River” by Nguyễn Đức Tùng

I have already promised the baby to someone else, she told my mother, but don’t you worry I’ll save the next one for you.

This week’s Translation Tuesday features the harrowing work of Nguyễn Đức Tùng. Illustrative language supports a narrative of unbelievable realism, as the speaker relates the acts of necessity during the Vietnam War that reverberated through the coming generations. Specific lives are pulled out of the polarizing and stereotyped recounting typical of that terrible war, and the author seizes on every chance to give intimate details of lives affected and bowled over. The narrator’s travels to a forgotten home, occupied by a woman who cannot keep but only gives, mirrors and subverts colonial narratives of inaccessibility and backwardness. In the end, the “The Woman by the River” thematizes hope and testifies to the possibility of stories surviving war and the smothering narratives that surround it.

My mother needed to find someone who would sell her a child. It would not be for her; she had given birth to several children, been provided with both boys and girls. The child would be for her cousin who lived in town and had been married for ten years but was still barren. One time my mother took me to the river for this mission, thinking a five-year-old boy like me wouldn’t understand grown-up affairs, or if I learned anything I would forget it as soon as I grew up.

But my mother was wrong.


Blog Editors’ Highlights: Fall 2018

To give you a taste of the Fall 2018 issue, the blog editors share their favorite pieces from Russian, Catalan, and Vietnamese.

Today, we share our favorite pieces from the Fall 2018 issue, released just four days ago, highlighting the diversity of cultures, languages, and literary styles represented. Chloe Lim, writing from Singapore, is joined today by two new blog editors as of last week: Jonathan Egid and Nina Perrotta, writing from the UK and Brazil respectively. Happy reading! 

From the visceral, violent power of José Revueltas’ The Hole to the lyricism of Osama Alomar’s “Nuclear Bomb” and the schizoid voices of George Prevedourakis’ Kleftiko, our Fall 2018 edition plays host to a typically broad variety of styles, forms, and languages. A piece that particularly caught my eye was “Epilogue,” a quiet, sombre short story by Irina Odoevtsova about two Russian émigrées in Nice, their separation and their separate fates.

The story follows the unhappy existence of Tatiana and Sergei, initially as poor migrants surrounded by the Anglo-American holidaying elite of the Riviera, through Sergei’s uncertain departure and Tatiana’s newfound wealth to a tragic conclusion, with much of the story being told through short, terse conversations between Tatiana and Sergei, Tatiana and her new lover and (more frequently) Tatiana and herself. The restrained, even sparse dialogue and plain prose nevertheless creates touching, vivid and tragic characters in strikingly limited space, conveying to us the tragic story of a woman struggling to understand her dreams and desires, and the tragic consequences that come from her acting upon those confused and conflicting desires.