peteg's blog - noise - books - 2015 03 24 Zhukov KimVanKieu

Vladislav Zhukov: The Kim Vân Kiều of Nguyen Du (1765-1820)

/noise/books | Link

Apparently I bought this for £12.94 around 2010-07-18 from the Book Depository. I don't know what I was thinking; the last poetry I read was imposed while I was captive in high school. But I recall now that while this poem is widely feted, I could not find much of an exposition of characters or plot anywhere. Having now read it, I'm pretty sure I'm not the person to attempt to do so. I think I picked this particular translation for the obvious reasons: Zhukov is clearly a quixotic type. A review in the Journal of Vietnamese Studies observes, contrary to other translations extent as of 2008: "Incredibly and uniquely, Zhukov reproduces the intricate rhyme scheme of the original throughout his translation [...]." Unfortunately, as Eric Henry goes on to observe, the syntactic and grammatical burden placed on the reader is high, which limits the amount that can be absorbed by a brain yearning for sleep. Throughout Zhukov's passion burns bright while the man remains elusive.

The wikipedia page seems decent now. Here's an excerpt from a book of translations I dug up a while back. Small details as I understand them, all dubious: Kiều loses her maidenhead to her first husband, whose lust earns the chagrin of his business partner, the madam Tu. Kim and Kiều do get married at the end and shack up, but only for one night, after which they revert to a Rousseauian state of nature (chaste youthful infatuation). Kim already had children with Vân (Kiều's sister), allowing Kiều to claim that the necessary had been taken care of. It seems to me that Kiều fell in love with at least two men other than Kim in their fifteen years apart, most spectacularly with a warlord. She meets both men in brothels, which somehow does not reflect poorly on them in her eyes.