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'Will there be peace again?': Some Aspects of Vietnamese Representations of the Vietnam War and its Aftermath

Subarno Chattarji, Kluge fellow

September 18, 2008, 12:00 Noon (LJ-119, Thomas Jefferson Building)
This event is free and open to the public; no reservations or tickets are required.

For over a decade literary works by Vietnamese veterans and civilians has been published in the US. These can be classified into various groups: those written by North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese, communists and anti-communists, Vietnamese living in Vietnam and Vietnamese-Americans. In all these categories - which are themselves fluid - the one common thread is the Vietnam/American war and its aftermath. In fact this thread reaches back in time to a historical and cultural memory of Viÿt Nam as a land constantly under attack and at war. In a poem titled ‘Conclusion’ Nguyÿn Bÿnh Khiêm (1491-1585) wrote: ‘Will there be peace again, as in the old times?/Be sorry for both sides: they keep on fighting./Brooks of blood everywhere, avalanches of bones./Terror sends the fish to the bottom, the birds to the thickets./What good does it do anyone?’ Written in the sixteenth century these lines reverberate in the context of twentieth century carnage.

Themes such as the love of one's land, the horrors of war, life in re-education camps, the travails of being a refugee and exile in the US run through the writings. The lecture will look at the politics of translation and publication within US academia. It will also examine the reconfigurations of the Vietnam/American War within certain US and Vietnamese contexts and competing memories created by this body of writing.

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