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Nguyen Ngoc Tu [THE KOREA TIMES2007.10.06]
 Asia  | 2007·10·06 12:38 | HIT : 7,143 | VOTE : 1,558 |
Introducing Bestseller Concept in Vietnam  

The novel, ``The Endless Fields,'' which received Vietnam's most prestigious literary prize, the Vietnam Writers' Association award for fiction in 2006 has been translated and published in Korea. (Translated by Ha Jae-hong; Asia Publishers; 168 pp., 9,000 won). In the book, she steps away from Vietnam's routine subject of war, and touches on the life of people living in the poverty-stricken countryside of Vietnam.

``Although the wounds of war remain, I felt I needed to move on and write about a new subject. Still, although war may not appear directly, its presence is no doubt felt throughout this story as well,'' Nguyen told reporters at a restaurant in central Seoul last Tuesday. She visited together with Vietnam's veteran poets Chim Trang and Thu Nguyet, and artist Tran Luan Tin, who drew the illustrations for the book.

Upon its release in Vietnam, the novel sold like hot cakes. But it drew mixed reactions and heated debate with some saying that it was interesting, while others said it was too provocative. This was something that the author had not expected.

``I didn't worry about how it would be read, but just poured my feelings out into my writing," Nguyen said. She wrote thinking upon the idea of resentment and forgiveness.

The novel is a Bildungsroman of an 18-year-old girl who learns lessons on life through witnessing or experiencing them first-hand _ including poverty, family break-up, violence and rape.

The girl's life is uprooted after her mother leaves home, an incident that leaves an indelible scar on both her and her brother, but especially her father. This causes the family to wander endlessly throughout the region. Along their journey, their paths cross with a prostitute who goes all-out to help the family but gets wounded by the father's attitude towards her. When she decides to leave, she has the lovesick younger brother chasing after her. At the end, the main character herself is in a helpless situation with her father equally powerless to help her.

“The Endless Fields,” Translated by Ha Jae-hong; Asia Publishers; 168 pp., 9,000 won

The author said that she wanted to portray the conditions where poor women have no choice but to endure and show that resentful circumstances are not necessarily a result of good or evil, but rather one's destiny.

According to Chim Trang, after reading the novel it is easy to understand why it created such a stir.

``The author realistically depicts aspects of Vietnam society, such as poverty, prostitution and corruption. She deserves high marks for honestly writing her thoughts and feelings," he said.

At one point, criticism towards the novel was so harsh that it lead to Nguyen being summoned to the ideological education committee in Ca Mau Province for self-criticism, but strong support from fans and receiving the prestigious literary award marked an end to any further controversy.

``At first, I was overwhelmed by the criticism, but as time passed by, I realized that it was nothing unusual because readers, as individuals, have the right to voice their opinions on what they read. I was pleased to receive such a reaction because it's better than to go without any response at all.''

Nguyen also plans on writing a novel related to the rising number of inter-racial marriages involving young Vietnamese women.

``There's no problem with intercultural marriages based on love, but when its something that is purchased on conditions other than love, that is saddening. I definitely want to write on this,'' she said.

The author enjoys quite a bit of reading, especially on topics that are related to the novel she is working on. It was such extensive reading that helped her to write despite having only attended school up to the 10th grade, growing up in a poor household.

She was recently introduced to a collection of Korean literature and discovered that generally, being an Asian writer, she shared the same thoughts. She found the works written after the 1990s, such as those by writers Shin Kyung-sook and Eun Hee-kyung, particularly interesting.

``Literature is not something that you are taught, but it can be picked up by reading many books,'' Nguyen said, something that she proves true in this novel.

By Sa Eun-young Staff Reporter eysa@koreatimes.co.kr
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