The “marketing-woman” of Vietnamese literature

September 17, 2008

18:29′ 06/09/2008 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Overseas Vietnamese lecturer Doan Cam Thi, who teaches Vietnamese literature at the University Paris 7 – Denis Diderot, has translated books by young Vietnamese writers into French. Thi talks about her work as well as her latest translation, the Au rez-de-chaussee du paradis (Heaven’s Ground Floor), which was published in France recently.

It’s can be said that Au rez-de-chaussee du paradis is the first collection of short stories by young Vietnamese writers to be widely published in France. Why did you decide to translate this book?

Although my main work revolves around research, criticism and lectures on modern Vietnamese literature, I became interested in the work of young writers since 2002. These writers include Phan Thi Vang Anh, Ngo Tu Lap, Phan Trieu Hai, Nguyen Trong Nghia and Nguyen Ngoc Tu. The more I read their work, the more fascinated I am by them. In addition, many of these writers say they want to have a chance to access more readers, other than Vietnamese readers. That’s why I want to present them to French readers. The Au rez-de-chaussee du paradis collection features 14 short stories by 14 young Vietnamese writers.

What challenges did you face in selecting the stories as well as in translating them?

I have to stress that to present the collection to French readers is not a simple task. First at all, I had to find a publishing house that would agree to take a risk and back the project. When I persuaded the director of the Philippe Picquier publishing house, Philippe Picquier, to publish the book, he did not hide his doubts over the book’s success, and asked me: “Give me a reason why I should publish this book?”

The book has been welcomed by French readers and that’s evidence that I made the right decision. The book has attracted a large number of French readers as well as readers in other Francophone countries.

Can you tell us more about the French readers’ reaction to the book?

Telerama, the biggest weekly cultural and art magazine in France, described the collection as a breath of fresh air from a distant land. They wrote that “there are not many French people who know much about distant Viet Nam, but this country is coming back, bringing a fresh breath in the form of a collection of literature about [Vietnamese people’s] dreams and fears.”

The Amazon website placed the book in its list of French best-sellers about Viet Nam. Many readers have said that the diverse writing styles in the collection makes each story in the book interesting in its own way, worth reading and contemplating.

What will be your next translation?

I am now working on the novel China Town by Thuan. The book is expected to be published in French by the Seuil publishing house next year. Along with Nguyen Binh Phuong and Nguyen Viet Ha, Thuan is one of the best Vietnamese writers at the moment.

Following the success of Au rez-de-chaussee du paradis, how do you evaluate Vietnamese literature’s standing in the world?

Vietnamese literature has became “younger” thanks to a growing number of young writers and critics, including the those who were born in the 1980s. Their works presents their desires, which often include adventure and discovery. In my opinion, that is a positive sign and I’m optimistic about the future of Vietnamese literature. Being a Vietnamese reader, I hope Vietnamese literature will be in harmony with the world’s literature.

You have been living in France for more than 20 years. What are your observations on the life of Vietnamese-French writers?

Almost all of them left Viet Nam many years ago, but they always have a sense of nostalgia in their heart for their homeland.

(Source: VNS)

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