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Vietnamese short stories make bestseller in France (March 22, 2005)

The translator of a Vietnamese collection of short stories in French that hit huge success in France, talked with Thanh Nien.

Au rez-de-chausseáe du paradis (The ground floor of heaven), a collection of Vietnamese modern short stories by young writers, was published in France early this year by famous publisher Philippe Picquier.

The book has been an ”unimmaginable success” in France, according to the country’s top cultural magazine Télérama.

The stories in the book were collected and translated into French by Doan Cam Thi, Doctor of Literature, who is currently a senior lecturer in a university in Paris, France.

The following is a full transcript of her interview with Thanh Nien.

Q: This was the first time a collection of short stories by young Vietnamese writers was introduced to French readers. Could you tell us where you got the idea?

A: My job is to study, review and teach Vietnam’s modern literature. Since 2002, I have been drawn to the works of young Vietnamese writers, starting with Phan Thi Vang Anh, Ngo Tu Lap, Nguyen Binh Phuong, Nguyen Viet Ha, and then to Phan Trieu Hai, Nguyen Trong Nghia, and Nguyen Ngoc Tu.

The more I studied, the more I was attracted by these writers. Furthermore, many of them have a need for idea exchange and argument. Obviously they have been well aware of their creation : wirting is a job, an attitute, and a way of life. Therefore I wanted to introduce them to French readers.

Q: Did you have to cope with any difficulties when collecting and translating the work?

A: I have to say that it was not an easy task. First, I had to find a publisher that was willing to take the risk with me. After listening to my request to translate young Vietnamese literature, Philippe Picquier, director of the publisher, asked me a very straightforward question : ”Tell me why I should publish these young writers ?”

The favorable condition is I trusted my feeling, and Au rez-de-chausseáe du paradis was the answer. The result was unexpected as the book attracted a large number of French and French-speaking readers, reflected through warm feedback from French media.

Q: Could you tell us in more detail how the book came out?

A: Télérama, France’s leading art and literature magazine, with a circulation of 674,400 copies, said : ” People in France no longer talk about a far and away Vietnam, but this country is back with a breath of fresh air in the form of a literary collection of stories about dreams and its wounds today.”

The book has been the best-selling Vietnamese book in French, according to the online retailer Amazon’s book chart. Reader feedback was positive, calling the work attractive and worth reading, discovering a different Vietnam.

Q: What is your thinking about the correlation between Vietnamese literature and that of the world?

A: Is it the biggest challenge of young Vietnamese writers to integrate Vietnam’s literature with the world’s literature?

Vietnam’s literature is becoming fresher, a reflection of the younger population. Recently, literary circles have been witness to the prominence of writers born in 1970s’ and 1980s’, with aspirations and adventurousness. It is a possitive sign. And like many readers, I do have hope.

Reprinted from THANHNIEN News


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