peteg's blog - noise - books - 2011 04 09 VuTrongPhung TheIndustryOfMarryingEuropeans

Vũ Trọng Phụng: The Industry of Marrying Europeans (Kỹ Nghệ Lấy Tây)

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Translated by Thúy Tranviet, Cornell University, 2006.

I extracted this from the shelves of the Menzies library at ANU, or more precisely, one of the lovely librarians managed to find it after my (plus-and-minus a non-Dewey decimal) search yielded nothing. I wouldn't be surprised if it hasn't been out of the library for many a year.

This is reporter/culture critic Vũ Trọng Phụng exploring the om culture of northern Việt Nam in the 1930s. Specifically he satirises the entanglements of the local ladies with the French Foreign Legion, giving a wide berth to those enmeshed in the politically thin-skinned colonial administration. He skirts the fine line between (mostly) serial marriages (for money) and outright prostitution, albeit with enough nods and winks for us to know that it is playing on his mind (cf the more-recent translation of Prostitution and Venereal Disease in Colonial Hanoi which I also borrowed). He also spends some time pondering the plight of the Eurasian children who are stuck between the two cultures.

The translation is so-so, and certainly not as good as Nguyễn Nguyệt Cầm and Peter Zinoman's Dumb Luck.

Again, the introduction would have been better as an afterword. It contains too much lit-crit for my taste; to simply situate the work against the times and culture, and even better, how it played in Việt Nam since it was published would have been far more useful.