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Vietnam: A Traveler's Literary Companion (Traveler's Literary Companions) Paperback – October 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Series: Traveler's Literary Companions (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Whereabouts Press; First Edition edition (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883513022
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883513023
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #453,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This anthology begins with Nguyen Huy Thiep's disarmingly simple but riveting tale of Mr. Dieu's monkey hunt in the Dau Da Forest on a warm spring day, starting off with "A month after the new year is the best time to be in the jungle. The vegetation is bursting with fresh buds, and its leaves are deep green and moist." Fifteen stories follow "Salt of the Jungle," organized under the sections "Hanoi," "Rivers," "Ho Chi Minh City," "Dalat," and "Villages," ending with a "Remembrances" series, including Nguyen Ba Trac's "The White Horse," in which Mr. Nguyen, ever running red lights and earning parking violations, can't stop traveling back and forth between past and present, between his current abode in the United States and his memories of the old neighborhood in Ban Co District. "Memory is a horse on an ephemeral path," he writes, "but you can't stop it. It goes where it wants to go. It goes all the way back to Dalat, galloping freely upon green hills in an afternoon in which the hues of sunshine are as light and thin as smoke and clouds." These stories, penned by Vietnam's best writers, are a beautiful introduction to Vietnam. From "The Stranded Fish," Doan Quoc Sy's unassuming elaboration on a century-old folk poem, to "Fired Gold," a complex, Borgesian piece by Nguyen Huy Thiep, these literary pieces evoke the land, culture, people, concerns, and soul of Vietnam like no travel guide could ever hope to do. They are a pleasure to peruse, regardless of your Vietnam travel plans. --Stephanie Gold

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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See all 8 customer reviews
This is a perfect compliment to travel guides.
Traveler
The book contains a series of fictional short stories which are original and creatively written.
lawrence welch
It was a great introduction to this wonderful country.
I. N. Jensen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Reader in Tokyo on April 15, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was published in 1996 and contained 14 writers, who contributed 16 short stories and one excerpt from a novel. Eight authors were from the north, including one who was living abroad, and six were from the south, all but one of whom had emigrated to the United States. Two contributors, the Vietnamese-Americans Nguyen Qui Duc and Andrew Lam, wrote originally in English, the others were translated from Vietnamese.

The oldest writers were Doan Quoc Sy (1923-), a northerner who fled to the south in 1954, was imprisoned from 1976-91 and permitted to leave for the United States in 1995; Linh Bao (1926-), a southerner who emigrated to the United States; and Vu Bao (1931-), who fought for the north against the French and then the Americans. Most of the other writers were born between 1945 and 1960. These included the popular Duong Thu Huong and Bao Ninh, as well as Nguyen Huy Thiep. Nguyen has been called particularly influential for his choice of subject matter and use of language, and four works by him were included. Of all the authors, four were women.

With a few exceptions, the anthology sought to avoid stories that touched directly on war, and focused instead on other concerns -- among them, the relations between people as they struggled to get along in postwar Vietnam or reconcile with loss and memories of the past; the remembrance of family; and relationships. Many of the stories were set among peasants in the countryside or the urbanites of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and also included a Vietnamese-American returnee as well as an émigré in Southern California. Most of the works were written in the 1990s. The earliest story was Doan's, dating from the 1970s, a parable-like piece involving a soldier in the jungle and a fish stranded in a stream.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Traveler on February 14, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been reading many books in preparation for a three week trip to Vietnam in May. I've intentionaly stayed away from books about the war in favor of snapshots of everyday life. Vietnam:A Treveler's Literary Compananion, provides a very initimate look into the everyday lives of Vietnamese from all strata of society. The collection of stories provides insights into how the Vietnamese view their lives, country and relationships. This is a perfect compliment to travel guides.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By I. N. Jensen on March 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a perfect book to bring along , while traveling in Vietnam. The stories was from different times and very varied.It was a great introduction to this wonderful country.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By 68GT/CS on May 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
Deeper understanding through a perfectly weighted selection of short stories.

In the three days I took to leisurely read these short stories I have gained greater insight into, and connection with, the people of Viet Nam than the couple of months living in sai gon, riding a 50cc honda in the mental traffic and taking language classes five days a week.

To set this in perspective, after living in Sai Gon for a couple of months and struggling with many of the Viet ways, I really needed a break and took off to the Island of Phu Quoc in the gulf of Thailand with my wife. I found this book in the hotel bookshelf. No electricity 10-18hrs a day and idyllic beach island long weekend. This book gave me something really worthwhile to take away - deeper understanding beyond even the content of the pages themselves. I have thought of these stories many times in the week since I read them as they resonate with life in modern Viet Nam.
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