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The Tale of Kiêu: A bilingual edition of Nguyen Du`s Truyên Kiêu Paperback – September 10, 1987

4.8 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Since its publication in the early nineteenth century, this long narrative poem has stood unchallenged as the supreme masterpiece of Vietnamese literature. Huynh's new and absorbingly readable translation (on pages facing the Vietnamese text) is illuminated by notes that give comparative passages from the Chinese novel on which the poem was based, details on Chinese allusions, and literal translations with background information explaining Vietnamese proverbs and folk sayings.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Reprint edition (September 10, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300040512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300040517
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #377,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
Nguyen Du's Tale of Kieu occupies the role of Shakespeare in Vietnamese literature: children study it in school, adults allude to it in daily conversation. This is a good translation that will let the curious discover a timeless exploration of love, loss, and life. For Vietnamese-Americans struggling to appreciate poetry in their native language, the facing Vietnamese-English format is a boon.
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Format: Paperback
Vietnamese, or no, it is difficult not to respond strongly to the tale of Kieu's woes and dignity in the face of misery. Kieu's story is one in which bad fortune, conflicting duties, personal caprices and betrayals, and petty tyrannies all play a role in creating an existence for her that any reasonable person knows would have humbled them to the point of madness and despair--think of King Lear howling as he holds the body of Cordelia in his arms. This is not what happens to Kieu though. Through a life that forces her first to abandon love and to endure all manner of humiliations and heartbreak for the sake of her family's freedom she maintains an integrity and gracefulness that transcends all the suffering the taboos that she breaks. She is a picture of how one can remain strikingly upright in a world where every type of bad fortune from a monsoon to a B-52 air raid carried the temptation to fall down low.

Though it seems naïve to make it explicit, The Tale of Kieu is a morality tale peculiarly suited to speak to the sensibilities of any people under the yoke of tyranny; be it foreign or homegrown. The nature of tyranny is its unpredictability and most of the history of Vietnam could be written as a history of tyranny; whether Chinese, French, American backed, or completely native. In a society where little is certain, moral adaptability coupled with a sense of duty is valuable beyond quantification. Though not a hero in the sense that her lover Tu Hai is, a rebel and a fighter capable of greatness, she is a hero whom it is possible for ordinary people to emulate. Fate that has made her life a tale of woe, but she never becomes disgraced by it and she certainly never descends to depths of hatefulness of Scholar Ma, Dame Tu, and the company they keep.
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Format: Paperback
This epic poem dates from the seventeenth century and is a cornerstone of Vietnamese literature. Radical in its subversion of traditional Confucian mores (the protagonist is a woman), *Truyen Kieu* defines the boundaries of modern Vietnamese culture. It is necessary reading for anyone who would hope to understand the bittersweet sentiment that undergirds the Vietnamese worldview.
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This is the epic tale of Thuy Kieu, a middle class teenage girl who was as gifted as beautiful. The future, despite its promising outlook turned out to be a life-wrecking nightmare for Kieu. Her travails are beautifully described in this lengthy narrative poem written by Nguyen Du, a 19th century scholar.
The work explores the many conflicting virtues imposed on Kieu by a Confucian society and how they affect her life. It is a classic as it is taught in school and quoted by almost any Vietnamese: the verses are even recited at social gatherings. Huynh Sanh Thong has done a great job in translating this work in English.
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This epic poem is the story of love found, love lost, love denied, & love found again. As the heroine goes through heart ache, betrayal, & every possible trial and tribulation, to finally emerge triumphant over her foes, and despite all she has suffered to choose justice & mercy over revenge. The translation is lyric and wonderful, the foot-notes complete, and cultural explanations for those bewildered by some of the action, or parts of the storyline.
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No doubt Tale of Kieu is a masterpiece. It took me only 6 hours to read from the first verse to the 3254th verse non-stop when I was a kid, but it has taken me roughly 20 years, since I first learned it in elementary school, until now well over 30 just to be able to say that I quite understand the philosophy and culture of it. I'm not sure if there would be a perfect translation. It's so hard to translate. The text is condensed. Most verse has a whole story behind it. But this translation is amazing. I didn't think there's such a great translation until I bought this bilingual edition. Love it so much!

By the way, I nearly forgot to mention the annotation, they are also great!
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This is a classic work and translation of wonderful quality. The introductory material gives a great historical background with in depth biographical notes. However, you may want to read the opening notes after you have read the tale as they allude to major events in the story.
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