By Lựu Lê
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Chronology of Events In the twentieth century, the Vietnamese people have endured a sequence of crises, first at the hands of French colonialism, then under foreign occupation during World War II, a phase that ended in 194445, the "Year of the Rooster," when famine claimed the lives of up to two million people. Indeed, hunger or, more broadly speaking, acute poverty and underdevelopment, register throughout Le Luu's novel, in the 1950s and even in the 1980s. A turning point in modern Vietnamese history was marked by the "August Revolution" that brought Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh to power in 1945.
This version was then passed on to Debra Spark, a novelist and editor with no background in the text or history, for more general editing and comment. From her annotated draft a final version of the manuscript was prepared. We realize that this method is fraught with hazards, but given the lack of truly experienced literary translators in either Viet Nam or this country one often unnoted consequence of the postwar embargo this seemed the best way to proceed if the novel was to see the light of day.
When the gruel was cooked, they woke the old woman up. The scholar's wife had almost finished emptying her bowl before she realized that Sai and his wife were not there. When she found out why, she dashed out into the yard and lit a torch of dried hemp stalks, then rushed through the village, calling out for her son and invoking the names of the gods. She paid no attention to what this behavior meant for the family order her husband prized or for the reputation her cadre son had to maintain. After she ran out, Tinh's wife ran out after her.