Duong Thu Huong – Viet Nam

Linked with Interview with Duong Thu Huong – Viet Nam.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed fort the Nobel Peace Price 2005

Duong Thu Huong est la romancière du Vietnam la plus connue au monde. Depuis qu’elle a été emprisonnée sept mois en 1991, et qu’elle doit sa libération à l’intervention de personnalités occidentales, elle n’est plus éditée dans son pays. Elle vit à Hanoi. Elle n’est pas, au sens strict du terme, en résidence surveillée, précise son traducteur, Phan Huy Duong : «Elle se déplace comme elle veut, mais elle a deux policiers en permanence devant chez elle, jour et nuit, qui interpellent ses visiteurs, rapportent ses conversations.

Duong Thu Huong - Viet Nam two.jpg

Duong Thu Huong – Viet Nam

See: 14 books of her on Amazon.

Elle ne peut pas avoir de vie privée.» Les romans de Duong Thu Huong ne paraissent plus au Vietnam mais à l’étranger. Rencontre avec une dissidente, entre engagement et littérature.

She says: “I will fight through my writing to convince others of the need for democracy and to ensure that people live with their full rights as human beings. Only a life like that is worth living”.

Duong Thu Huong (born 1947) calls herself an exile in her own country. A veteran of the Vietnam War and the war with China, she was disillusioned with the regime and became a vocal advocate of human rights and democratic reforms. She published short stories and novels about hunger and malnutrition in Vietnam, but her books were banned and she was expelled from the Communist Party. In 1991, she was imprisoned for seven months without trial. Duong Thu Huong lives and writes in Hanoi under permanent surveillance and is not allowed to travel abroad.

For eight years, Duong Thu Huong was on the frontline in Quang Bin where much of the heaviest bombings of the Vietnam War took place. At 20, she was the leader of a youth brigade of “singing soldiers”, a group of 40 young people sent to the front “to sing louder than the bombs”. Their mission was to compose morale-building texts and write patriotic lyrics for songs to motivate the soldiers. For eight years without a leave, she lived with the soldiers in small underground tunnels. She was there voluntarily, because she wanted to oppose the foreign invaders.

When the war ended, Duong Thu Huong was one of only three members of her group who survived. The first time she saw prisoners of war, she realized that they had black hair and olive skin like her: They were also Vietnamese. She realized that this was not a war against invaders, but a war between differing philosophies. “It was so new, I didn’t dare think it through to the end. That was the beginning of the mental itinerary that led me to change my views,” she relates.

After the war, in 1975, Duong Thu Huong worked as a screenwriter in the film studios of Hanoi, where her problems with the leading party members began. Her first satirical play was banned. She protested publicly, but without success.

Four years later she became the first female correspondent to cover the war against China. Again, she was on the frontline, where she joined a documentary film unit to write the script for an Anti-Chinese film. “There I experienced the most terrible odor of war,” she recalls. It was this war that disillusioned her forever.

In 1980, back in Hanoi, she published her first novels and short stories, which found a large readership. She was pampered by the state with prizes and state subsidies as a young hopeful writer.

However, although she was a party member, Duong Thu Huong spoke out against her comrades. At official Party events or in speeches at cultural events, she criticized the bureaucracy, corruption and the hypocrisy of the officials.

“I write because I find no other way to scream the pain of my generation, of my people – a people drowned by their interminable misfortune,” she says.
In her work, she focused on the loss of idealism in the post-war period and endeavoured to strengthen the role of art in society. She unveiled the hunger and malnutrition spread all over Vietnam, something the officials did not want discussed in public. As a result, in 1982 her works were banned from publication. When the censors demanded that she stop writing, she spoke out against censorship. She finds herself, in her own word, in a continuing “war against the authorities and against a dictatorial regime”.

Eventually, the censorship was lifted and she continued to write novels, the most successful of which were “Beyond Illusions” (1987) and “Paradise of the Blind” (1988). The latter, her first book translated into English, was published in the United States. But in Vietnam, the book scandalized the authorities again because it presented the brutality and injustice of North Vietnam’s land reform of 1954.>

With the novel’s international reach, Duong Thu Huong became bolder and more confident in her struggle for the freedom of her people. At that point, she was sure she could no longer arrange a compromise with the regime.

In 1990, she was expelled from the party, and a documentary film she made on the inhuman living conditions in a camp of mentally ill war veterans was destroyed. She lost her job as a documentary screenwriter and had to find ways to bring her work out of country.

In April 1991, Duong Thu Huong was arrested and imprisoned in solitary confinement. She was accused of being part of an international conspiracy against Vietnam’s socialist system and government and held for seven months and seven days without trial. International pressure from the P.E.N. Writers Association and Amnesty International helped obtain her release. That same year, she was awarded the Prix Femina and the UNESCO Literature Prize.Duong Thu Huong is banned from leaving Vietnam but she continues to fight for her rights. Although she is under permanent surveillance, she issues political statements, writing her documents on an old manual typewriter because she fears that the secret police could destroy he work on her computer.

Duong Thu Huong suffers because her words are not read in her own country. The only way to express herself is to publish her books in Western countries.

Despite her hardships, Duong Thu Huong remains optimistic, although much of society is more interested in material consumption than in freedom and democracy. But Duong Thu Huong says, “I believe in the principle of the pendulum. It swings from the extremely idealistic generations like mine to the extremely pragmatic ones of today…. But material pleasure is not the goal of life.”Since “Doi Moi”, the opening up of the economy, there have been many improvements in Vietnamese life. But Duong Thu Huong wants the people to see more than the surface. She is angry that foreigners have mistaken Doi Moi for a sign of democracy. “They don’t see the loss of human rights in daily life. The essential interest of Doi Moi is money, it is not the beginning of democratization,” she emphasizes.

She is sure that one day Vietnam will be ready for a change to freedom and democracy. “My writing is a battle to convince others of the necessity of democracy and the upholding of human rights”. (Read all on this page of 1000peacewomen).

Book/Livre: Terre des oublis : Royaumes perdus et retrouvés
La romancière vietnamienne Duong Thu Huong a choisi une femme, Miên, et deux hommes comme héros de Terre des oublis. Les deux hommes sont les maris de Miên. L’un avait été déclaré mort à la guerre. Ce vétéran communiste revient un matin de juin. Assoiffé de vivre, il apparaît vite pour ce qu’il est: une figure du malheur et de l’impuissance. L’autre est l’aimé, épousé après deux ans de veuvage. Il lui a construit une maison avec une terrasse et donné un fils.
Miên sait qu’elle va perdre un bonheur qu’elle commençait à peine à découvrir. Sous la pression muette des autorités et de la collectivité de son village, elle prépare son départ comme un exil pour rejoindre ce fantôme sorti de la jungle et qu’elle avait oublié. Trois courbes de vie ligotées par le destin, foudroyées par une conjonction où la nouvelle situation de chacun paraît sans issue. Cette œuvre fait vivre de façon magnifique et nuancée le chant tragique de ces trois existences.
Il faut dire tout de suite que Terre des oublis appartient à cette catégorie de romans qui inventent au fil des pages leur inspiration, leur acuité, leur tempo et leur forme. Au centre du triangle humain, un univers de souffle, aux dimensions cosmiques, le Vietnam. Ce pays est le quatrième personnage du livre, raconté par une prose fluide et évocatrice, où se glisse la poésie. Des souvenirs, des espérances, des paysages, des clairs de lune, des vallées couvertes de fleurs éphémères, des plantations, des collines, des cerfs, des daims, mais aussi des hommes brûlés par les bombes et la dioxine, des cadavres déchiquetés par des vautours, les âmes des morts qui prennent beaucoup de place, des masures à toit de feuilles, des villas somptueuses, des jalousies et des haines fraternelles, le poids de la rumeur de la foule.
Ce roman est celui de l’amour, des passions enchaînées, des métamorphoses et des cicatrices, de la fragilité des royaumes perdus et retrouvés. On y croise des êtres épris d’absolu, des cœurs purs qui trébuchent, des volontés résignées, des héros qui ont raté le coche, des esprits écartelés; et la douceur de la vie, quand même: le parfum du thé, gingembre ou jasmin, des pâtisseries au miel, des journées de chasse, les appels stridents dans les halliers, et l’air saturé de l’odeur des grillades, de la viande sautée avec des oignons et de l’ail. Méditation sur la puissance de la vie, ce chef-d’œuvre de Duong Thu Huong nous fait entrer dans l’intimité d’un pays, mais aussi dans d’étranges contrées où les hommes ne cessent d’interroger leurs vérités intérieures pour s’approcher, non sans crainte, des secrets de leurs errances. (De L’express, février 8, 2006, à lire dans

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