Books by Duong Thu Huong

Doung Thu Huong was born in Vietnam in 1947. At the age of twenty, she led a Communist Youth Brigade sent to the front during the Vietnam War. A vocal advocate of human rights and democratic reform, Huong was expelled from the Communist Party in 1990 befo

THE ZENITH by Duong Thu Huong
Released: Aug. 16, 2012

"A complex, politically daring story, much of which will be unfamiliar to Western readers—and that demands to be read for that very reason."
Scenes from the last months in the life of Ho Chi Minh, as imagined by Vietnamese novelist Huong (Paradise of the Blind, 1993, etc.). Read full book review >
NO MAN’S LAND by Duong Thu Huong
Released: April 13, 2005

"Rambling but fascinating foray into little-charted territory: the trauma wrought by the Vietnam War on its 'winners.'"
In dissident Huong's latest fiction set in postwar Vietnam (Beyond Illusions, 2001, etc.), a woman's veteran husband, presumed dead, returns after a 14-year absence. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2001

"One more eloquent plea for freedom and tolerance from an accomplished writer and conscience of her country."
A first novel from noted activist Duong, whose work is currently banned in Vietnam, is as disturbingly powerful in its depiction of totalitarianism as her later were to be (Memories of a Pure Spring, 2000, etc.). Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 19, 2000

Vietnamese dissent author Huong (Novel Without a Name, 1995, etc.) continues her criticisms of Communist Party injustices by focusing on her country's performing artists. In a complex and initially confusing divided narrative, Huong explores the interrupted careers and embattled marriage of eminent composer Hoang Hung and his (younger) wife Suong, a peasant girl from the mountains of central Vietnam whose innate musical ability earns her fame as "the nightingale with the crystal voice.' The opening chapters focus on Suong's recuperation from a failed suicide attempt, as observed by her teenaged brother Vinh (who openly despises Hung, from whom Suong had been estranged). Then Huong presents a series of flashbacks within flashbacks, to Suong's early life and her decision to leave home and become a singer; her experiences with Hung among a troupe of performers compelled to offer celebrations of their country's revolution; Hung's subsequent sufferings in prison (where he's sent because, in his words, "I just happened to be on a beach the night that a bunch of boat people were fleeing this country"); and his bitter reunion afterward with Suong, who can't forgive either her husband's or her own infidelity and weakness. Memories . . . climaxes with savage irony when, five years after war's end, Huong is (technically) repatriated'too late to save him from his own harsh self-judgment. The story has power'but, in this translation, at least, Huong never uses one highly charged verb or adjective when half a dozen will serve as well. Her penchant for melodramatic overstatement obscures her tale's evident truthfulness and blunts its impact as political commentary. All honor to Huong's courage and persistence. One accepts her as an authoritative witness, while wishing she were a better novelist. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 15, 1995

Another novel of life in wartime North Vietnam from dissident and former Communist Duong (Paradise of the Blind, 1993), whose experience as a Communist Youth Brigade leader gives this story special resonance. The narrator is 28-year-old Quan, a North Vietnamese soldier who has been fighting for ten years. Hair graying, his body worn down by malnutrition and disease, Quan recalls the idealism and Communist fervor that made him first enlist as he and his division now fight on towards the delta. His disillusionment increases as he helps a childhood friend, who has been kept in horrible squalor because the war has driven him mad, find a less dangerous billet, making coffins for the dead soldiers in the midst of the jungle. Quan then returns to his native village, where he finds his father, a former political activist, ill and depressed, unable to get over his guilt at forcing Quan's young brother—a brilliant student—to enlist. (The boy later died.) Quan's great love, pregnant by an unknown man, is shunned by the village and must live in an isolated shack. Only the village's political officer still seems to believe in Marxism. The surrounding countryside is devastated; few young men are left, and the villages are filled with old men and women. Lyrical memories of the past are interspersed with reports of ongoing fighting in which army buddies and fellow villagers lose their lives. Life between battles is no less dangerous: Tigers claim victims, malaria and dysentery strike, and tension leads to murderous fights. By the time Quan's detachment reaches the South only a dozen veterans remain; the rest are young conscripts. Quan will advance even further now, but for what? ``Glory only lasts so long.'' One of those timely novels that assault the status quo with quiet but deadly revelations of the hitherto unknown. Beautifully elegiac. (First serial to Grand Street) Read full book review >
Released: March 23, 1993

A novel of contemporary Vietnam—billed as ``the first Vietnamese novel ever published in the United States''—by a former Communist turned political dissident whose works have been recently banned in that country. The story is broadly of three women struggling to survive in a northern village and a Hanoi slum. But the narrative is secondary to the evocative descriptions of life under the Communists, of the countryside itself, and of the old customs that still prevail. Narrator Hang, a young woman working in the Soviet Union as an ``exported worker,'' has been summoned to Moscow by her uncle Chinh, who claims to be dying. On the long train journey through the icy Russian landscape, Hang recalls how Chinh, her mother's brother and a dedicated Communist, tore her family apart and destroyed the relationship between her mother and herself. An important Communist, Chinh brutally imposed the land-reform measures in his native village—an act that led to Hang's father fleeing, her redoubtable aunt Tam being impoverished, and her mother becoming a street-vendor in Hanoi. The regime moderates its excesses in time, though it is increasingly corrupt, and Aunt Tam rebuilds the family's wealth so that Hang will not have to suffer- -but she cannot forgive Chinh. Hang, caught between her mother's traditional deference to male relations—she starves Hang in order to provide money for Chinh—and her aunt's bitterness, is finally able to break with the past after her trip to Moscow: ``I can't squander my life tending these faded flowers, the legacy of past crimes.'' Slight, but enriched by vivid characters and telling descriptions of life as it really was in a place of mythic resonances in our own history. A welcome debut. Read full book review >