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Need for review of Nguyen Chi Thien controversies

Dan Duffy <dduffy@email.unc.edu>
date Feb 15, 2007 2:30 PM
subject [Vsg] need for review of Nguyen Chi Thien controversies

Hi all,

There has been for some years a controversy in the overseas press about
the identity of the poet Nguyen Chi Thien.

My own view is that this question has the intellectual status of the
crypto-communism of Nguyen Ngoc Ngan. The government of the United
States and Human Rights Watch think the man known here as Nguyen Chi
Thien is the famous prison poet, and so do his translator Nguyen Ngoc
Bich and other contemporaries and compatriots of literary sensibility
and historical understanding who have examined him. His sister received
the man now living in the US as Nguyen Chi Thien as her brother when he
was released from jail, and his uncle and brother received him in the US.

But I just got a call from a nail shop that left me wishing I could say
that the matter has received proper attention in English-language
scholarship. A concerned woman perseverated on my ignorant disrespect
for Viet Nam as evidenced by my support for the man known as Thien until
I told her to get a job and do some scholarship herself.

She probably does have a job, if not two or three, and scholarship is
evidently not her profession. Thien's poetry is so tied to his person
as a prisoner that claims about his identity should be dealt with. His
survival, of all those who perished in those camps, is unusual and he
has not composed poetry since arriving in the US. Some people do
survive disasters, and most poets do stop writing poetry when youth is
gone, but the skeptics aren't wholly in the grips of solipsist
skepticism. The larger issue of bizarre claims as a basis for
intellectual life among Vietnamese Americans is also worth attention.

But I don't have time for that, any more than I have time for these
calls. If someone is free to examine the arguments against the identity
of the man known as the author of Hoa Dia Nguc, and report on them for
VNLP I will be most obliged. You don't have to agree with me or even
come to a clear conclusion. Just present a literature review with
probity and documentation, so I can explain to some deeply alienated
poetry lovers that their views have not been dismissed without review by
English-language scholarship.

You also have to sign your work, and maybe take some calls of your own
from nail shops. I can provide an honorarium and pledge to get your
work reviewed by peers and to promote it seriously. Please let me know
at editor@vietnamlit.org




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