Thanhnien News Daily, November 16, 2008
Literary critics say Vietnam’s lack of literary leadership is due to outmoded worldviews and historical problems.
As the Nobel Prize for Literature is set to be awarded to a French author next month, Vietnamese literary critics are speculating about why local writers have never received the honor.
In a recent essay titled, “Why has Vietnamese literature yet to win the Nobel?” award-winning Cham poet Inrasara says local writers are weak on philosophy and courage.
Nobel Prize winners, the poet writes, must do one or all of the following: capture the quintessence of contemporary life like Albert Camus and Ernest Hemingway; explore new ideas that affect the human soul like Jean-Paul Sartre; fearlessly ask the unasked questions of their peoples and countries like Orhan Pamuk; or find new ways of expression that influences their contemporaries like William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
– Nêu lên được tinh thần cốt tủy của con người thời đại họ sống.
– Triển khai tư tưởng mới, độc đáo tác động nhiều chiều đến tinh thần con người.
– Không kiêng nể hay hãi sợ nói lên vấn đề lớn của dân tộc, đất nước mình, rộng ra – thời đại mình. Họ chấp nhận trả giá.
– Khám phá lối thể hiện mới ảnh hưởng đến lối viết của người cùng thời hay thế hệ sau.]
“Can we name a writer in Vietnam who can do these things?” asks the poet, who won the Southeast Asian Literature Prize for his poetry collection, Le tay tran thang Tu (The April purification festival) in 2005.
[Nguyên văn: Ở Việt Nam, có nhà văn nào làm được như thế?]
Literary critic and professor at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Education Le Ngoc Tra says 20th century southern writer Ho Bieu Chanh left an impressive legacy of 64 novels, but most of them were too specific, with portrayals of local culture that don’t appeal or apply to the outside world.
He says the Nobel Prize, on the other hand, often goes to works that address universal human issues.
Inrasara says writers must explore and expand on a new idea or an urgent human problem persistently throughout their numerous works.
“Vietnamese writers too often jump from one topic to another”, he told Thanh Nien Daily.
“Our old literary critic Pham Quynh once likened Vietnamese literature to a bird short on breath”, Tra says. “But if it wants to cross the ocean, so to speak, it must have strong lungs” (…)
Reported by Thuy Linh.