Vietnamese literature grows on the world stage, gains Nobel recognition

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Nguyễn Quang Thiều, President of the Việt Nam Writer Association. Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Quang Thiều

The Nobel Committee sent a letter to the Việt Nam Writers Association asking them to nominate a Vietnamese writer to be considered for the 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature. This is the first time the association has received such a request.

Việt Nam News reporter Nguyễn Bình interviews poet Nguyễn Quang Thiều, President of the Việt Nam Writer Association, about the matter.

The Việt Nam Writers’ Association received an invitation from The Swedish Academy to submit a Vietnamese candidate for the Literature Prize. Could you tell me about it and how did you respond to the invitation?

I sent a letter to the academy chairman to thank him. I wrote in the letter that it is very honourable for the association and we always wait for the annual Literature Prize winner announcement from the Nobel committee.

I also introduced some Vietnamese literature history. I believe and hope that with the achievements that Vietnamese literature has made, one day a Vietnamese poet or writer will be honoured by The Swedish Academy.

I wrote in the letter that Việt Nam had to be in wars to defend itself and build the country. Vietnamese blood permeates through our land. Vietnamese literature was born of the desires of a righteous people and the beautiful dream of peace. Our literature deserved to be recognised and honoured by other nations in the world.

What are your personal thoughts on this?

I think it is good news. This is the first time the leader of the academy has written to a representative of the Việt Nam association. It means that the Nobel Committee and the academy think about Vietnamese literature.

In recent years, many Vietnamese literature pieces have been published around the world and they have received awards from both foreign nations and literature organisations.

Plus, I think that the hidden literature of Việt Nam has a unique beauty that the world should know.

Do you think that this is a good opportunity to popularise Vietnamese literature to the world?

It is a really good opportunity. However, Vietnamese writers must think about what they have been writing. First of all, they write for their community and their culture but the works need to have readers from other cultures.

Presently, we have not selected a candidate for the academy nomination, but we need to begin thinking seriously about this. Thinking about the Nobel Prize means thinking about the role of Vietnamese literature and its popularisation in the world.

In recent years, the Việt Nam association has had an International Conference Promoting Vietnamese Literature. Could you tell me about the results?

The association has organised four conferences to popularise Vietnamese literature to the world. I think these conferences have been held to send a greeting from Vietnamese literature.

The thing that we need to do now is to introduce specific authors of specific works. The conference did its duty well. This is another period that needs to have a strategy to introduce Vietnamese literature works to international readers.

How does the association promote literature to the world? What are the association’s plans?

Translations of Vietnamese literature have been carried out individually by the translator and writer. But this is an ineffective way to introduce a full portrait of Vietnamese literature to the world.

We are doing a project on translating Vietnamese literature to submit to the Government. It needs to have a specific strategy, including a selection council; translation and distribution organisation and others. We need support from the Government for the strategy.

What has Vietnamese literature achieved in recent current?

Vietnamese literature theme has been diversified and the writers have new voices. The works which have been written since the country’s renewal and in current years increasingly carry the individual and freedom spirit of the writers.

They give priority to and focus on human destiny in a chaotic world. There are a few works that have been translated into different languages.

It is not only Vietnamese writers that have a language barrier problem. What is your appraisal of literary translations into English in Việt Nam?

It can be said that the English of the Vietnamese people has improved, thanks to the State’s multilateral external relations strategy and other reasons. This is an important foundation and the first step for translating Vietnamese works into English.

Furthermore, the association has had relations and cooperates with international literature organisations and the world-acclaimed writers. They play important role in the translation progress. VNS

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