Vietnamese Colonial Republican: The Political Vision of Vũ Trọng Phụng

Vietnamese Colonial Republican: The Political Vision of Vũ Trọng Phụng

Vietnamese Colonial Republican: The Political Vision of Vũ Trọng Phụng

Vietnamese Colonial Republican: The Political Vision of Vũ Trọng Phụng

Synopsis

This volume is a comprehensive study of Vietnam’s greatest and most controversial 20th century writer who died tragically in 1939 at the age of 28. Vu Trong Phung is known for a remarkable collection of politically provocative novels and sensational works of non-fiction reportage that were banned by the communist state from 1960 to 1986. Leading Vietnam scholar, Zinoman, resurrects the life and work of an important intellectual and author in order to reveal a neglected political project that is excluded from conventional accounts of modern Vietnamese political history. He sees Vu Trong Phung as a leading proponent of a localized republican tradition that opposed colonialism, communism, and unfettered capitalism—and that led both to the banning of his work and to the durability of his popular appeal in Vietnam today.

Excerpt

Vietnamese readers need no introduction to Vũ Trọng Phụng but he has only recently come to the attention of outsiders. For those unfamiliar with his remarkable life and body of work, it may be instructive to compare him to George Orwell. Both men were literary stars of the interwar era who died prematurely, Orwell (1903–50) at age forty-seven, Vũ Trọng Phụng (1912–39) at age twenty-eight. Both are known for stunning levels of productivity; Orwell’s Complete Works comprises twenty volumes and nine-thousand pages, while Vũ Trọng Phụng, in a career spanning less than ten years, published eight novels, four books of narrative nonfiction, and hundreds of stories, plays, essays, editorials, and articles. Both accomplished the uncommon feat of authoring canonical works in (the same) two literary genres: the novel and first-person reportage. While both are regarded as masters of realism, they each earned acclaim for successful experiments with nonrealist fictional narratives: Orwell for the political fable Animal Farm; Vũ Trọng Phụng for the slapstick farce Dumb Luck (Số đỏ). Moreover, despite very different backgrounds, the two men exhibited a similar prescience about the most pressing and divisive political issues of the day. in an influential study of the writer, the late Christopher Hitchens praised Orwell’s opposition to colonialism, Stalinism, and fascism, during an era in which global public opinion about each of these coercive high modernist projects was disturbingly mixed. As a native subject of French Indochina, Vũ Trọng Phụng naturally resisted colonialism, but he also opposed German fascism, Japanese militarism, and Soviet and Vietnamese communism. the two men also resented . . .

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