A “phenomenon” of modern literature passes away
Writer Nguyen Huy Thiep, who has been considered a phenomenon of Vietnamese literature passed away on Sunday at his home in Hanoi. He was 71.
After suffering a stroke last March, he has been dependent on family members for most of his personal activities.
Despite being bedridden, he still composed poems and painted.
The passing of his wife at the end of last year hit Thiệp hard, and his condition deteriorated.
Poet Tran Dang Khoa said Thiep passing means Vietnamese literature has lost ‘a big old tree'.
Writer Nguyen Huy Thiep at an event hosted by Youth Publishing House a few years ago when he was healthy. File Photo
“I think during the period of 1985-1996, no one could write short stories better than Thiep,” Khoa said.
“He had a special style, short and sharp. Luckily he was among the list for the State Prize in Literature and Arts this year, which is worthy recognition for his talent and contributions.”
On March 17, Thiep submitted to the State for the prize for his two short stories namely Tướng Về Hưu (Retired Army General) and Những Ngon Gió Hua Tát (Winds in Hua Tat Village).
His latest piece was a traditional opera script Vong Bướm (Butterflies’ Souls) written in 2012. In 2018, he published the novel Tuổi 20 Yêu Dấu (Beloved 20s), which was completed in 2003, in which the main character is his own son, a drug addict suffering from urbanisation.
In his 50-year writing career, among 50 short stories, Tướng Về Hưu has been considered one of his most successful pieces.
Thiệp started writing when he was 36 with a short story printed in Văn Nghệ (Literature and Arts) newspaper on June 20, 1987.
Critic Vuong Tri Nhan said: "With a profound style of writing of an experienced person, who was losing much belief and hope in life, in Tướng Về Hưu, the writer sketches a scene where pragmatism is widely spread among people, turning into people’s habits. In that place, everyone is stubborn and get used to their stubbornness."
The story was made into a film under the same title by director Nguyen Khac Loi and released in 1988.
Writer Nguyen Quang Thieu, chairman of Viet Nam Writer’s Association, once noted that Thiep dared to speak up the truth.
"Literature should not always make people feel happy and satisfied but it should also make people feel ashamed,” Thieu said at a workshop on literature in 2016. “Thiep must have been hurt inside very much to speak out the painful truth."
Thiep himself often said: "Above ‘harsh reality’ should be ‘honesty’. Writer should write the truth."
Researcher Phan Cam Thuong judged Thiepamong the few distinguished writers of 20th century.
According to Thuong, after Nam Cao, only Thiep is a writer with sharp ideology. While Nam Cao wrote very well on Vietnamese peasants of the first half of 20th century, Thiep acted the same role in the second half of 20th century.
Thuong said if there was an award like the “golden pen” for the best writer every year, in 1987 and the first half of 1988, the winner for that title should have been Nguyen Huy Thiep.
Thiệp was born in 1950 in the northern province of Thai Nguyen. As a child during the war, he moved with his family through various countryside areas in provinces of Thai Nguyên, Phu Tho and Vinh Phuc. He graduated from History Faculty, of Hanoi Teachers Training College.
He was awarded the French Literature and Arts Medal in 2007 and the Premio Nonino prize by Italian authorities in 2008.
His distinguished works include Tướng Về Hưu (short story, 1987), Những Ngọn Gió Hua Tát (collection of short stories and drama scripts, 1989), Tiểu Long Nữ (novel, 1996), Tuổi 20 Yêu Dấu (novel, published in France in 2002). VNS
Nguyen Quang Thieu was elected president of the Vietnam Writers' Association at the 10th conference held last month.