peteg's blog - noise - books - 2011 11 30 DuongThuHuong NoMansLand

Dương Thu Hương: No Man's Land

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Written in 1998 by Dương Thu Hương, and translated in 2005 by Nina McPherson and Phan Quy Duong. This one is a triangular pseudo romance with far too much artifice and verbiage. Huong is back to her old food-porn habits and something as simple as getting some third-person plot progression on the page becomes an exercise in describing just how many tiles are broken in the courtyard of the non-character that the anonymous crowd is parked at. It is a screen play from an exacting auteur.

Bon-the-bat is occasionally credible, but only historically; Mien is a vacuous pawn straight from the beauty salon. Hoan sometimes fires up but is mostly the stereotypical slick business dude, Ken to her Barbie. Huong's observations about village life are almost entirely banal; what, there's a lot of malicious salacious gossip? People are two faced? Say it ain't so. This is some composite of Romeo and Juliet, or maybe King Lear, with the Party playing the erstwhile King... or would be if it weren't Vietnamese; that makes it a reiteration of The Tale of Kiều.

I found the majority of the 400 pages tedious beyond belief, though most had just a sniff of something flamable. I don't know if I can face up to the last book on the list: Memories of a Pure Spring.