Libmonster ID: U.S.-1449
Author(s) of the publication: T. FILIMONOVA

Nguyen Huy Thiep is one of the most famous and original contemporary writers in Vietnam, the author of more than thirty short stories, about a dozen plays, several screenplays, one novel, and many articles on literary topics... His works are translated and published abroad, repeatedly reprinted at home, always attracting the interest of both readers and critics. From his first publication, he drew attention to himself with a bright personality and over the past fifteen years has generated such a huge flow of responses to his work, which probably did not cause any Vietnamese writer. In Vietnam, they even talk about a certain "magical power" of his prose. In 2001, a voluminous collection of articles by authors from different countries dedicated to the writer's work was published in Hanoi under the title "In Search of Nguyen Huy Thiep".

Nguyen Huy Thiep was born in 1950 in Hanoi, where he graduated from high school and then from the History Department of the Hanoi Pedagogical Institute. After graduation, he went to teach in a remote mountainous area in northwestern Vietnam, where he spent ten years. He returned to the capital in the first half of the 1980s. It was a difficult time, and the country was on the verge of change. To support his family, whatever he had to do - work as an artist in a publishing house, sell paper, cut wood... At this time, he began to write.

He appeared as a writer just when, apparently, he should have appeared - not earlier and not later, namely, immediately after the proclamation of the so-called "renewal policy"in the country in December 1986. The liberalization of all spheres of life that accompanied this course opened up new opportunities for creativity, created new conditions that also contributed to the renewal of Vietnamese literature. Nguyen Huy Thiep became one of the most striking manifestations of the new things that gradually matured in Vietnamese literature in the last decades of the XX century. After the publication of his first stories, it became impossible to write in the old way. He set a new and higher standard by offering Vietnamese society a new literature, different from the one that has dominated North Vietnam since the August Revolution of 1945. Due to objective historical conditions, the literature of this period developed in line with a single method - socialist realism.

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Of course, there were talented writers in the country, but they had to create within the strict framework of the socialist political system, they were not free in their creativity and were forced to write "to order", if not literally, then in accordance with it, in order to live and be published. Nguyen Huy Thiep, thanks to the new reality and despite the political and ideological difficulties that had not yet been overcome, could already afford to write as he wanted, as the "soul asked", without adapting to anything.

In 1987, the literary newspaper "Van Nge" (Literature and Art), an organ of the Writers ' Union of Vietnam, which played an important role in promoting the ideas of "renewal", published his first works - literary legends "Winds over Hua Tat". They were followed by the short stories "Retired General", which caused a real storm in Vietnamese society and split it into supporters and opponents of the writer, "Salt of the Forest", "River Nymph", etc. In 1988, three historical stories were published "Sharp Sword", "Gold and Fire" and "Chastity", followed by which was followed by a new surge of interest in the writer, even more ambiguous.

Creativity of a real writer involves the creation of its own holistic artistic world. This world exists according to its own internal laws, embodying reality in a special way. This world is dominated by its own hierarchy of values, vital and aesthetic, it is characterized by its own spatial and temporal relations, relations between man and man, man and society, man and nature... This world is recognizable and interesting. This is exactly what Nguyen Huy Thiep offers readers, his own holistic and recognizable world.

His works are noticeably autobiographical, which is supported by a single narrative intonation common to many stories, especially since the narration is often conducted in the first person. They reflect the experience of an urban person, a native of Hanoi, who knows the village firsthand. The setting is North Vietnam, Hanoi, a North Vietnamese village and remote foothill and mountain areas of the north of the country, inhabited mainly by national minorities. After a trip to the United States, Nguyen Huy Thiep's art space also features American reality. In recent stories, such as "A Story Told on a Rainy Night," "The Art of Weaving," or "Guang Yin Pointing the Way," the main character who is being narrated is a "famous writer." Nguyen Huy Thiep's personal life events are partly used in his novel "At Twenty Years Old", and he does not hide it. His works clearly show "traces" of a historical education, a passion for Chinese classical philosophy and literature, a love of poetry, an interest in Catholicism (because his mother was a Catholic) and Buddhism (because every Vietnamese is a Buddhist to one degree or another).

One of the ideological dominants of Nguyen Huy Thiep's work is the obvious contrast between the city and the village. At the same time, the opposition "city - village" is combined with the opposition "educated - uneducated", or "intelligentsia - ordinary people". And the writer's sympathies are on the side of the village and ordinary, uneducated people. Because the village is poor and the city is rich. Because the villagers, mostly uneducated-simple and sincere, are not spoiled by a false civilization and value good relations more than money. On the other hand, urban and educated people are often deprived of these qualities, the main thing for them is money, prestige, etc. In Nguyen Huy Thiep, the city and education spoil people, deprive them of their dreams or even morally destroy them in many stories: "Village Lessons", "Memories of native fields", "Urban Legend",

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"River nymph", "The Last blood".

Here we can talk about anti-urbanism and a kind of anti-intellectualism in his work, which, by the way, are not expressed so clearly in any other modern Vietnamese writer. And if anti-urbanist motives are found in the works of other Vietnamese writers of the XX century, for example, in Tan Da, Dang Chan Fat or Nyat Lin, then anti-intellectualism as a dislike of the educated is a specific feature of Nguyen Huy Thiep's work, especially surprising for a representative of such a traditionally Confucian country as Vietnam, where education and the educated are highly revered from time immemorial. Not to mention the fact that Nguyen Huy Thiep himself belongs to the educated class both in terms of his social status and origin.

Denouncing the city and the educated in his own way, Nguyen Huy Thiep acts as a moral writer, but his moralism is not expressed in direct text, the writer gives the readers the right to draw their own conclusions. The light in which the writer shows modern Vietnamese society, sometimes with shocking details, is precisely what causes a clear rejection of a certain part of it, and is perceived as offensive denigration.

A special place in the work of Nguyen Huy Thiep is occupied by stories that can be conditionally called historical and historical-literary. The former are built around authentic historical figures and events, while the latter focuses on famous Vietnamese writers and poets. The writer uses historical characters and events only as an excuse to tell his own fictional story, without claiming to be historically accurate, which, by the way, cannot be due to the time immemorial, and to reflect on the fate of the country: its past and present. However, it turned out that the Vietnamese society is not ready for this. The writer's historical stories caused a heated discussion in the country about truth and fiction in fiction, about the writer's right to fiction. Many accused him of anti-historicism, of distorting history, of de-heroizing national heroes, and even of justifying the emperor who "sold the country to the French" for Long.

Nguyen Huy Thiep is called a "failed poet" - he can tell a story in verse form, his characters think in verse. Traditional Vietnamese prose is characterized by the use of poetry. You can recall Vietnamese fairy tales, or the collection of medieval short stories "Extensive records of stories about the amazing" by Nguyen Zy (XVI century) or the historical and adventure novel by Nguyen Trong Thuat "Watermelon", which was published in 1925. However, approximately from the 30s of the XX century. Under the influence of European prose, this tradition was interrupted and reappeared only in the late 19th century. the works of Nguyen Huy Thiep.

It should also be noted that he is characterized by an accentuated attention to the form of stories, a thoughtful, complicated arrangement of them, and sometimes a kind of game with the reader. And the more attentive the reader is, the more he will benefit if he "reads", deciphers at least part of what is contained in them.

If we talk about the nature of Nguyen Huy Thiep's work as a whole, then it can be defined by one word, but it is quite broad in its meaning - it is modern, that is, it generally corresponds to the state of world literature at the end of the XX-beginning of the XXI century. Literature is constantly becoming more complex, constantly in search of ways to reflect the world, which is also becoming more complex in front of her eyes. Therefore, some consider Nguyen Huy Thiep to be a representative of Vietnamese postmodernism, others-a representative of fantastic realism, and others define his prose as "Baroque" prose... Apparently, the final definition of his work will not be given soon.

The story "Retired General", which was the beginning of Nguyen Huy Thiep's fame as a writer, describes Vietnamese society in the mid-1980s, and it seems to describe it quite realistically, recognizably, even if not always pleasantly. Why did he alarm everyone so much? It turned out to be not so much the truth as its ambiguity. The Vietnamese reader is used to seeing black and white, positive and negative clearly defined in do Nguyen Huy Thiep fiction; there is a struggle between good and evil, but the victory must be on the side of good, and the writer's position is clearly expressed. The story "Retired General" has led many people into confusion precisely because it is not clear from the story which hero is positive, which is negative; who the writer stigmatizes and whom he supports. It turned out that not everything is so simple, in the same characters there are both bad and good, and there are no hints for an unambiguous assessment. After reading the story, some came to the conclusion that Nguyen Huy Thiep, as a true humanist, loves and protects any person, just a PERSON, and others - that he is a cynic, for whom there is no difference between good and evil, and, therefore, he is a singer of evil. Such a polar attitude towards the writer persists even now. This means that everything is still "in search of Nguyen Huy Thiep".


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