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Nguyen Huy Thiep, Noted Vietnamese Author

Dana Sachs, Translator of Crossing the River explains the significance of this remarkable Vietnamese author.

Interview By Allison Martin

What would you say is unique about the author Nguyen Huy Thiep?

To me, Thiep is unique for many reasons. Most obviously, his broad range of styles and subject matter make him continually interesting and surprising to read. As a writer myself, I'm continually inspired by his choice of words and the ways in which he describes places and people. He's wholly original and unbound by convention. In editing this English translation, I probably read each of those stories many dozens of times. I still don't tire of them! I especially love certain stories in particular, like "Nostalgia for the Countryside," "Rain," "Crossing the River," and "The Winds of Hua Tat."

Every time I read those stories I learn something new from them.

Why did it seem important to pull together Ngueyn Huy Theip's works?

Thiep is a very important writer in Vietnam and he's had a great influence on contemporary literature, so it's important that English-speaking audiences have exposure to him for that reason. Although many of his stories had been translated into English, no collection existed that offered a full range of his work. This collection makes that range available, finally, to English readers. Finally, although some readers may find his work difficult, I think that many people will find it fascinating and inspiring. So, we wanted to make these stories available for people who love great literature.

Could you speak about his influence on Vietnamese literature?

When I speak of Thiep's influence being great, I don't mean to say that you will find many younger writers imitating him. I mean, instead, that I think Thiep's originality and vitality gave other Vietnamese writers a sense that they, too, could step away from the narrow bounds of Vietnamese literary conventions and try something new. Thiep is one of the members of the "Doi Moi" generation of Vietnamese writers who came onto the literary scene with "Doi Moi," the period of economic and cultural renovation that began in Vietnam in 1986. In part because of Thiep and other "Doi Moi Writers," younger generations of writers have a broader sense of what's possible in terms of subject matter and writing style.

Read about Crossing the River, stories by Nguyen Hug Thiep.

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