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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Today is the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War,

and here are Postcards that are Vietnam related, Riverside, Wisconsin, North Philly and San Jose.

At Diacritics, there's a compilation of Vietnam-related passages from this blog.

If you can read Vietnamese, here's a piece about my personal experience of April, 1975, and another that talks about Vietnamese refugees in the US.

In 2010, I wrote a brief article about April 30th, 1975 for the New York Times.

In 2001, I reviewed Apocalypse Now Redux for the Guardian.

There's this 2015 ESPN video that quotes from my Vietnam novel, Love Like Hate:

Here's a prose poem from my first poetry collection, All Around What Empties Out:

The Most Beautiful Word

I think "vesicle" is the most beautiful word in the English language. He was lying face down, his shirt burnt off, back steaming. I myself was bleeding. There was a harvest of vesicles on his back. His body wept. "Yaw" may be the ugliest. Don't say, "The bullet yawed inside the body." Say, "The bullet danced inside the body." Say, "The bullet tumbled forward and upward." Light slanted down. All the lesser muscles in my face twitched. I flipped my man over gently, like an impatient lover, careful not to fracture his C-spine. Dominoes clanked under crusty skin: Clack! Clack! A collapsed face stared up. There was a pink spray in the air, then a brief rainbow. The mandible was stitched with blue threads to the soul. I extracted a tooth from the tongue. He had swallowed the rest.

If you're interested in new Vietnamese poetry, you can buy a compilation I edited and translated, The Deluge.

If you want to read recent Vietnamese fiction, you can buy an anthology I edited and half of which I translated, Night, Again.



Linh Dinh said...

Son Nguyen, or better known as the rapper Nah, in the Seattle Times, 4/29/15:

Rapping for freedom and the end of communism in Vietnam

The Communist Party in Vietnam has been throwing activists in jail and brainwashing youth.

By Son Nguyen (Nah)
Special to The Times

MANY Vietnamese people know me as the rapper behind the controversial rap song “DMCS.” The lyrics are explicit because, for the first time, I am practicing my free speech rights to the fullest extent. “DMCS” is a verbal attack against the ruling Communist Party in Vietnam, a criticism of its war crimes and poor management of the country. The song has surpassed more than 600,000 views on YouTube, and inspired more Vietnamese youths to do their own research and demand a better political system.

It was time to speak up because of the current geopolitical issues between Vietnam and China. Despite Vietnam strengthening its relationship with the United States, there is a lack of transparency and information within Vietnam. Over the last few years, courageous bloggers and informants have leaked secrets indicating that the Vietnamese communist leaders have agreed to cede parts of Vietnam to Chinese communists.

Places like Vung Ang and the bauxite mines in Tay Nguyen contain areas where only Chinese workers are allowed and streets have been changed to Chinese names. Before he died in 2013, the famous Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap warned Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to oppose the Tay Nguyen bauxite projects for environmental and security reasons, but he, too, was ignored.

Last, but not least, are the Paracel Islands. Satellite images show the Chinese have constructed a runway and other military structures in this disputed territory in the South China Sea, yet the Vietnamese government won’t even allow citizens to protest this incursion.


Linh Dinh said...

Wislawa Szymborska, as translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh:


"Woman, what's your name?" "I don't know."
"How old are you? Where are you from?" "I don't know."
"Why did you dig that burrow?" "I don't know."
"How long have you been hiding?" "I don't know."
"Why did you bite my finger?" "I don't know."
"Don't you know that we won't hurt you?" "I don't know."
"Whose side are you on?" "I don't know."
"This is war, you've got to choose." "I don't know."
"Does your village still exist?" "I don't know."
"Are those your children?" "Yes."

x larry said...

re Nah, yes, but isn't this the usual, him being used as an anti commie pundit, also anti chinese? i personally see nothing, or very little, about the u.s. system and especially it's neo colonialism and world domination, to cheer about--though i'm aware from linh's recent posts about some of the evils of communism as practised in vietnam.

Linh Dinh said...

Hi x larry,

Every Vietnamese is aware that Vietnam was swallowed up by China for a thousand years, so that anti-China current is a constant through every regime and in popular culture. It is telling, though, that Nah is only able to publish at Seattle Times and not, say, the New York Times.

As World War II ended, (Nationalist) Chinese troops spilled into Vietnam, which forced Ho Chi Minh to make a brief truce with France. Since France was the colonizing power and Vietnam's enemy at the time, this confused Ho's supporters, so he said, "I'd rather smell French shit for the next few years than Chinese shit for another thousand years."

It was Ho's gambit to get rid of the Chinese, then when they were out the way, he turned his attention to the French.


Linh Dinh said...

The United States Isn’t the Only Country Still Trying to Figure Out the Vietnam War

by Tuong Vu

A native of Vietnam and an associate professor of political science at the University of Oregon, Tuong Vu has authored many books and articles about the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the Vietnamese revolution. He can be reached at

Forty years ago this month, the savage war in Vietnam ended dramatically with North Vietnamese tanks crashing through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon. As Americans continue to struggle over the legacies of the Vietnam War, it may surprise many of us that our former enemy who won that war is confronting a crisis over its meaning.

Ever since the end of the war, Hanoi leaders have sought to capitalize on their military victory to legitimize their rule. Every year the event is celebrated with great fanfare, as “the day when South Vietnam was liberated and the country reunified.” The victory on that day, Vietnamese are told again and again, epitomized the 4,000-year history of Vietnamese struggle for independence. Its greatness validated the eternal mandate of the Communist Party to rule the country.

Yet public opinion inside Vietnam about the meaning of the war has quietly shifted in the last two decades as Vietnamese gained the freedom to travel abroad, as scholars gained access to previously classified documents, and as the internet broke the government’s monopoly on access to information. The internet has been the government’s chief adversary more than anything else. Most Vietnamese were born after the war, and without the internet they would not have been able to know what really happened during the war and in its aftermath.

No opinion survey on the topic is permitted, but one gets a sense of the public mood by following online discussions and by initiating informal conversations with ordinary Vietnamese. Much to the government’s chagrin, Vietnamese now view the war as a proxy war and civil war rather than one for national liberation and unification.


Elizabeth said...

Linh, have I ever told you that I really, really love you?

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Who doesn't want to be loved, so thank you! Though the writing may be, at times, likable, the dude is a ludicrous mess! (But then, again, who isn't?) I send you a hug!

Gombrowicz said that we're both at the table and under the table, and I think he means that our true selves are nearly always just out of sight, and these true selves are sadder, more ridiculous but also more lovable. Writing is one way of exposing these more hidden selves but, unfortunately, most of the time it's used to camouflage us even further.


Elizabeth said...

See there, Linh, that's why I said I love you. I'm not planning to stalk you, I don't fantasize about sizzling sex with you (sorry), but I love that you always insist on speaking your mind. I call it impertinence disorder, which will likely show up in the DSM-6.

If I'm anything, the most accurate term would be Dadaist. When I first learned about them as a teenager, and read their manifesto, I immediately knew they had it exactly right. And so with you.

As I knew I would, I'm being blackballed out of Cleveland State University. Over a decade of working for their ridiculous shit money, and it's fuck you very much. Ah, what a sick little story this is: maybe if I can get my ludicrous mess in a bit of order, I'll write you the melodrama.

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Elizabeth,

How about really tepid sex? You won't even know it's sex. Writers are like professional cuddlers, except there's hardly any cuddling and most of them aren't rally professional. Poets are like back alley molesters and flashers!

Kidding aside, I hope you'll be able to weather the Cleveland State bullshit. With fewer students and more teaching candidates, universities will be even more rude and dismissive to their professors. If and when you feel like dissecting the state of the academy, I'll post it on this blog.


Elizabeth said...

OK, maybe some tepid sex if I can manage to get my sorry ass on a Greyhound and visit. Probably not, though, so I guess I can try to imagine tepid sex with you. Maybe we can both do it at, say, the stroke of midnight May 20th, and we'll see if the earth moves.

Of course I will send you my appraisal of higher ed when I can get it together, and I did expect you'd want to post it, so sure! Leah, my girlie, thinks I should write a book-length parody. If I ever got that together, who do you think would publish it?


About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.