Thinking about Today’s Young Writers

Southern young writers are on a fact-finding tour (Photo: TV)

The seminar for young writers just taking place in Hoi An town, the central province of Quang Nam, was the seventh meeting organized with much effort by Viet Nam Writer Association, in the search for a succeeding young force. There are still responsibilities and expectations. However, like many previous seminar, this one did not attract the necessary attention and breakthrough to young writers.


Creativity and the love of literature

The young generations now are at more advantage than their predecessors in that they have more opportunities to improve their knowledge with better education. Most are graduates of colleges and universities. They come from all walks of life, but in general, they are children of the urban working class, farmers of semi-rural, or urbanites in the time of urbanization.

They create their uniqueness in their writing very early. On the other hand, the common educational level put them at a disadvantage. They have to make their choice of accepting what already existed to develop or finding something new. Being new and strange is the property and the life-and-death requirement of literary creativity.

Young writers who want to affirm their position surely have to find something new, but it is not easy to understand what is new and exotic. M. Gorki is often quoted saying that literature is humanities, which confirms that literature is a science about human, human with all respect. Human in literature is not only the ego, but also the owner of the social life. The phenomenon of over honoring “sex culture” is not a new thing. In fact, it is as old as the sea.

Dynamic or typical

There have been opinions that literary activities in Ho Chi Minh City are rather conservative with almost no breakthrough. Seriously speaking, it is the model and pace keeping characteristic of a multi-faceted central city. Ho Chi Minh City breeds writers with personality and talent.

It is easy to see the efforts in the works of HCMC young writers like Phan Hon Nhien, Vu Dinh Giang, Nguyen Thuy Hang, Nguyen Danh Lam, Nguyen Vinh Nguyen, or Nguyen Ngoc Thuan. Vu Dinh Giang is haunted with the youth’s loneliness in the business and indifference of urban life. Nguyen Vinh Nguyen penetrates into the net world, where the modern youth are living a cyber life. Phan Hon  Nhien is successful with his literary works for children. Tran Thi Hong Hanh concerns with the injustice of life.

Each young writer provides a different view of the youth to the modern life. A special thing is that the city’s young writers do not have many works of rebellion. In fact, they calmly choose their attitudes. Such a method of literary creation has caused an understanding between young readers and young writers.

Since the liberation on April 30, 1975, Ho Chi Minh City has been leading in the number of young writers and works. This can cause a pride and a sense of responsibility. Many generations of writers have made their names in Ho Chi Minh City for the past 30 years. They experienced wars, like Chim Trang, Nguyen Chi Hieu, Nguyen Manh Tuan, Tran Van Tuan, Le Diep, Nhat Tuan, Duong Trong Dat, Van Le, Nguyen Duy, Ha Phuong, Y Nhi, Thai Thang Long, Nguy Ngu, Muong Man, Hoang Phu Ngoc Phan. Following them are Nguyen Nhat Anh, Phan Thi Vang Anh, Nguyen Dong Thuc, Ly Lan, Nguyen Thi Minh Ngoc, Do Trung Quan, Pham Sy Sau, Cao Vu Huy Mien, Le Minh Quoc, Nguyen Thai Duong, Vo Phi Hung, Le Thi Kim, or Thanh Nguyen and a young generation of today with much vitality and dream.

Compared with other localities, Ho Chi Minh City’s literary activities are happily safe and clement. However, it is also a worry as the self-contentment of this state means a lack of dynamism, which is a characteristic of Saigon-Ho Chi Minh City.

Creation of typical characters

China currently has about one million famous female poets. Viet Nam also boasts of its large number of female writers. In the life of development and integration, it is common to see the influence of foreign literature on Viet Nam. However, as Vietnamese literary criticism is inadequate, the trend of China’s post-cultural revolution “new literature” caught Viet Nam off-guarded. In mid-2005, there was much talking about some Chinese young female writers’ works among Vietnamese readers.

Apart from the deviations, the factors making those works successful were not only the rebellious style but also the creation of typical characters. Their works help readers imagine a generation of young Chinese with modern view and thinking, typical of a generation in particular historical contexts. Regretfully, Vietnamese young writers do not often create such typical characters.

In the recent young writer seminar, many young writers admitted that they lacked real life experience. Sometimes, the new and strange things in their works are just the reproduction of something old, leading to an indeliberate repetition.

This explains why the works of Tran Thi Hong Hanh or Nguyen Danh Lam seem new and strange at first but resemble something already said in the past works. Vu Dinh Giang makes a good impression with his work 16m2, but the characters in his works look like a self-talk rather than an image of a generation of young people leaving the rural and migrating to the city to make their living. Nguyen Vinh Nguyen’s Playing with Numbers has emotional and meaningful prose but stops at mentioning the phenomenon without creating a picture of young people living in the cyber world.

Without typical characters, young writers of Ho Chi Minh City fail to create their impression on readers.

Literature means more than composition

Literary activities include more than prose or poetry composition. Currently, literary criticism is inadequate and weak; collection and research are nowhere to be seen; translation is out of control. Books have been printed in large numbers but there is a lack of good works of criticism and research.

Thinking about the past periods of Tho Moi (New Poetry) or the time of the wars against the French or the American, when there was always a strong force of literary criticism, can lead to a worry about the young writers today. There are almost no such literary critics among the young writers.

The young writers of a Viet Nam on the way to development and integration should do more to affirm themselves.

By Tuong Vy-Trang Sa; Translated by Le Thao

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