Literature and War Readalong May 29 2015: Novel Without a Name – Tiêu thuyêt vô dê by Duong Thu Huong

Novel Without A Name

Two years ago we read Bao Ninh’s moving novel on the war in Vietnam The Sorrow of War. Quite a few of those who participated and others who read our posts stated that they would be interested in reading novels by Vietnamese authors. That’s why I chose to include Novel Without a Name – Tiêu thuyêt vô dê, another famous novel on the war in Vietnam. It was written by one of Vietnam’s most prominent authors: Duong Thu Huong. She is well-respected outside of her native country. If you read French you’ll find translations of many of her books. Duong Thu Huong is not only a great writer but a courageous one. Many of her novels have been forbidden in Vietnam and she was imprisoned for her political views.

Duong Thu Huong

This link will lead you to the website of Swiss publisher Unionsverlag. Unionsverlag is a pioner when it comes to world literature. On their website you’ll find newspaper articles and interviews on and with Duong Thu Houng – in English.

Here are the first sentences (which I had to translated from my German copy)

I heard the wind howl all through the night, out there, over the ravine of the lost souls.

It sounded like a constant moan, like sobbing, then again like cheeky whistling, like the neighing of a mare during copulation. The roof of the pile dwelling trembled, the bamboo poles burst and whistled every time like reed pipes. They played the mournful melody of a country burial. Our nightlight flickered as if it was going to die down. I stretched my neck from under the quilt, blew out the light, and hoped that the shadow of the night would cover up all the senses . . .

And some details and the blurb for those who want to join

Novel Without a Name – Tiêu thuyêt vô dê by Duong Thu Huong (Vietnam 1995), War in Vietnam, Novel, 304 pages.

Vietnamese novelist Huong, who has been imprisoned for her political beliefs, presents the story of a disillusioned soldier in a book that was banned in her native country.

A piercing, unforgettable tale of the horror and spiritual weariness of war, Novel Without a Name will shatter every preconception Americans have about what happened in the jungles of Vietnam. With Duong Thu Huong, whose Paradise of the Blind was published to high critical acclaim in 1993, Vietnam has found a voice both lyrical and stark, powerful enough to capture the conflict that left millions dead and spiritually destroyed her generation. Banned in the author’s native country for its scathing dissection of the day-to-day realities of life for the Vietnamese during the final years of the “Vietnam War, ” Novel Without a Name invites comparison with All Quiet on the Western Front and other classic works of war fiction. The war is seen through the eyes of Quan, a North Vietnamese bo doi (soldier of the people) who joined the army at eighteen, full of idealism and love for the Communist party and its cause of national liberation. But ten years later, after leading his platoon through almost a decade of unimaginable horror and deprivation, Quan is disillusioned by his odyssey of loss and struggle. Furloughed back to his village in search of a fellow soldier, Quan undertakes a harrowing, solitary journey through the tortuous jungles of central Vietnam and his own unspeakable memories.


The discussion starts on Friday, 29 May 2015.

Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2015, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.

16 thoughts on “Literature and War Readalong May 29 2015: Novel Without a Name – Tiêu thuyêt vô dê by Duong Thu Huong

  1. This really looks like something well worth reading.

    I wish that I was not so enmeshed in already such long books currently, otherwise I would join you.

    I look forward to reading what you have to say about this one.

  2. So wonderful that the next Literature and War readalong has already arrived 🙂 I can’t wait to read Duong Thu Huong’s book. I can’t believe that her books are banned in Vietnam and she has been imprisoned for her political beliefs. That first sentence, especially that last phrase – “the ravine of the lost souls” – plucked a string in my heart. Thanks for that link. I can’t wait to read the articles and interviews with Duong Thu Huong.

    I know it sounds like an oxymoron especially when reading a war novel but still – Happy reading!

    • Happy reading to you as well. I’m glad you will join. The beginning of the novel really moved me. If it’s anything to go by it will be a very special book.
      I haven’t read all the articles yet but I’ll do so. She’s a courageous woman.

  3. I’ve not done well lately with reading along and until my class finishes I think I had best not try (since I seem doomed to failure lately when it comes to books), but it does look very good and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. I need to read far more literature from that part of the world…. !

  4. For many reasons, I never seem to pick up a book about war- unless it’s about the Civil War. More recent wars – especially the Viet Nam War – are far too depressing. The excerpts you show reveal a very talented writer, however. They really are beautiful.

  5. I have never read a Vietnamese account of the war and feel like I should have. This looks like a good place to start, even though it will probably be gut-wrenching. I won’t be able to join, but I’m definitely reading this in the future. I look forward to the discussion, Caroline.,

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  7. Since I’m half-Vietnamese and my family fled the country, I feel like I really should read this book. I look forward to the discussion!

    • It would be wonderful if you could read along but you can join the discussion anyway. Sometimes general questions come up.
      I’m so sorry for your family but glad they made it out. It could be that the book would affect you even more.

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