Memories of a Pure Spring – Duong Thu Huong

October 31, 2010

Memories of a Pure Spring by Duong Thu Huong

Vietnam’s Communist government doesn’t receive as much bad press as China’s, but by objective accounts they’re similar beasts: controlling information, crushing political dissent and imprisoning those who criticise the regime. Political liberalisations has not followed economic liberalisation. Most people, either because they are too fearful or comfortable, don’t dare to defy the ruling party.  But Duong Thu Huong is not most people.

The events portrayed in Memories of a Pure Spring in many ways parallel the life of the author. Like her novel’s protagonist, Huong spent ten years during the Vietnam/American War in the most heavily bombed area of her country, serving not as a soldier but the leader of an artistic troupe. She was also imprisoned, although in her case for “sending state secrets abroad” after she mailed the manuscript for Novel Without a Name overseas for publication. Even her hero’s name, Hung, is notably similar to her own.

Memories of a Pure Spring demonstrates that Huong continues to defy the Communist Party despite her persecution. Yet while the Government is undoubtedly culpable in the tragedy that lies at the novel’s heart, a lot of discussion could be had over who is ultimately responsible – those in power, fate, history, or the characters themselves. Read the rest of this entry »


Novel Without a Name – Duong Thu Huong

October 11, 2010

review by Gabriel

Novel without a Name by Duong Thu Huong

The North American perspective on the Vietnam War (called ‘The American War’ in Vietnam) has been thoroughly fictionalised in the novels of authors such as Tim O’Brien and excellent movies like Platoon, Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. Novel Without a Name tells the story from the Vietnamese side, but the first thing that may strike readers is how similar the experiences of soldiers on both sides were – the brutalising effects of war, the horrors that were inflicted on enemy combatants and civilians, the arbitrariness of death, and the widespread affliction of what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

A common theme of Western artists on Vietnam is the disillusionment of US soldiers with a war that had lost the support at home and had dubious idealogical motives. In the West, many now view the Vietnam war as folly. In Vietnam, it is a source of national pride, at least in the official accounts, in which a technologically superior invader was repelled by the Vietnamese people’s fighting spirit.

It may surprise readers, then, that the narrator of Novel With out a Name, Quan, suffers a similar disillusionment with the war to that felt by some American soldiers, albeit for different reasons. Read the rest of this entry »