Intellectuals play a great role in social life. Thus, the subject of intellectuals has become one of the major themes of Vietnamese modern literature. However, due to the particularity of each period in history, it is not always the case that this topic has received appropriate attention. Through the ups and downs, along with the emergence of many talented writers, now the subject of intellectuals have taken new steps, created impressive changes, associated with the renewal of the concept about art and human. Thereby, it has contributed significantly into the promotion of the development of literature and social life. The diversity and inventiveness in the way that this topic expressed has helped readers to visualize the process and progress of a literature step by step with efforts to overcome inherent limitations.
Keywords: intellectual, literature, Vietnam, literary works, subject of intellectual, writer.
The subject of intellectual in Vietnamese literature before 1945
- Medieval Vietnamese literature
In Russia and many countries in the world, the topic of intellectual appeared in many writings and public discussions from early of the 19th century. It is easy to understand because in these nations the intellectuals appeared early and contributed importantly into social life. This was different in Vietnam. Saying about intellectuals is saying about freedom of thought, their tireless commitment, and their drastic and effective involvement in social life. These things were not encouraged in the feudal society of Vietnam. In addition, due to the old civil service examination system, the intellectuals were most likely to join the bureaucracy. Thus, in the Medieval literature, the subject of intellectual was not publicly brought in [6, 13].
The above mentioned can be observed in the statistics and classifications of Professor Tran Nghia that Phan Ngoc provided in the book Cultural identity of Vietnam. In this writing works are classified into 10 topics: 1-Political society includes 99 books; Geography includes 277 books; 3. Economy consists of 90 books; 4-History includes 976 books; 5-Literature has 2536 books; 6-Legislation includes 316 books; 7-Military consists of 23 books; 8-Thought and philosophy includes 898 books; 9-Culture and education have 572 books; 10-Medicine: 398 books. [4; 269–270]
Of course, the classification is relative and the classification of Han — Nom scripts is the same. However, this classification allows us to analyze the consciousness of Vietnamese Confucian scholars in a practical way rather than on personal observation [4; 271]. Literary books occupie the most number but there is no room for intellectual topic. Medieval Vietnamese people did not spend time on special debates about soul, psychology, temperament, nor care about eternal life. They were famous for fighting [4; 271]. It is also said that all Vietnamese Confucian scholars were writers, poets, but their writings are mainly within the framework of the concept that in the poetry must contain moral standards. The things they expressed were not the thing that only they can feel and see.
Saying about the subject of intellectual is saying about a particular object, about human condition, and the intellectuals who speak about themselves. Meanwhile, feudalism taught people to live for others, live for family, for the nation and most of all was to live for the King. They no longer had the opportunity to express themselves with all of their actions, dreams and aspirations. Just not be careful they were condemned to death due to lease-majesty and rebel.
Therefore, in what angle to consider about we can recognize and affirm that: although there were intellectuals in Vietnamese society in feudal period, there was not subject of intellectual in Medieval Vietnamese literature.
1.2.Vietnamese literature in the early 20th century (1900–1945)
In the second half of the nineteenth century, French colonialists invaded Vietnam and turned Vietnam’s society from feudalism to semi-feudal colonialism, deeply influenced by Western culture and literature. This prompted the liberation of the individual ego, which took place most strongly in the intelligentsia of the lower middle class. Thenceforth, Vietnamese literature entered the modernization phase. At that time, writing became a profession to earn money. The role of the creative force and the Western intellectuals also had significant changes. Thus, for the first time in history, the subject of intellectual was publicly laid out in literature.
The semi-feudal colonialism society made intellectuals fall into a tragic situation. As intellectuals, they were educated with high aesthetics level. Moreover, they were intellectuals who had a deep sense of personal ego, so their feeling of joys and sorrows in life were more than normal. They also had great expectations and dreams. In fact, they faced a huge gap between desire and reality. Desire was big, reality was fierce. This made their lonely individual ego more and more helpless and desolate. These were embedded in the literary works they have written. Writing to them was not only for living but also for expressing their sentimental thoughts in a difficult situation. This is most noticeable in prose before 1945.
In Vietnamese prose before 1945, especially from 1930 to 1945, subject of intellectual drew attention from many real and romantic writers, including the outstanding representation of Critical realism literature, writer Nam Cao, the master of short story in our country. Nam Cao was a poor intellectual of the lower middle class, so he could clearly understand the material, spiritual and emotional life of the urban poor intellectuals. He saw in talented intellectuals the desire to show off themselves intensely, the desire to live meaningfully and devote to society. He also realized that the dark reality did not allow the intellectuals to do what they wished, which left them in a state of «stuck in a rut», «unnecessary life». Ho (Unnecessary life), Dien (Bright moon) and Thu (Stuck in a rut) represented for these intellectuals, they suffered because of the trivialities of daily life, the food and money issue and the scramble for living. Career tragedy and mental tragedy caused them to always live in torment and suffering. It was not a joke. The pain and bitterness caused by the food and money issue was terrible because it could ruin both the ambition as well as the beautiful personality of an intellectual. Readers must not forget the short story «Why this» of Nam Cao. Why was there a woman in this world who was sloppy, dirty and so bad that she ate rice when it was just bloated? And how could she become a model, noble, elegant and delicate woman? In “Unnecessary life”, there was an intellectual who was so passionate about art that he could despise all the little things in life. But when he had a wife and children, he became a sloppy writer and a violent caveman. This was because of the poverty and the hunger. How bitter it was when such simple things could make people corrupt and ugly.
The subject of intellectual in Vietnamese literature before 1945 was also expressed by Nguyen Huy Tuong. Most remembered was Vu Nhu To character in his same name play. Vu Nhu To was a rare talented architect, aspiring to create a great work that can overcome all the challenges of time. As his wishes, Vu Nhu To had a chance to make his dream come true when he was asked by the King to build the Nine planes of hierarchy. He spent all of his enthusiasm and talent with heart, despite everything to fall into miserable circumstance of losing home and relatives. That made the public indignant, they no longer distinguished whether good or bad, they rebelled against the Nine planes of hierarchy and killed Vu Nhu To. When nearing the death, Vu Nhu To was not as fearful as when he witnessed his great work was destroyed. Vu Nhu To was killed twice, retaliated and disillusioned. Tragic disillusion of intellectuals makes the readers regret and pity.
In addition to realistic writers, romantic writers had many works about intellectuals. Among them, there were writers of the Self-reliant Literature Association with famous names such as Nhat Linh, Hoang Dao, Khai Hung, Thach Lam, etc. All of them wrote about intellectuals. This means that they were very interested in this topic as well as this type of character. This was easy to understandable because these writers were first and foremost intellectuals whose appearance and persistence took place in a special social context. In that situation, they witnessed and experienced such fierce upheaval that its impression was undoubtedly very deep. These writers, first of all wrote by their reflections of themselves and the world around them. They confided all their sadness and hatred into their works. And for romantic writers, the work is the world in which they indulge themselves with imagination and creation, they live with aspirations that may not be in real life. That is another happier life and a shelter for their lonely and sentimental soul. In this world, there were characters as Loc, Mai (Halfway to Spring — Nhat Linh), Dung, Loan (Broken the past — Khai Hung) and romantic love stories with tears; but most of all, they were talented younglings with aspirations, wishing to change their stuffy lives at that time although their paths were dark and far away.
It can be seen above that, in Vietnamese prose of the early twentieth century, intellectuals have become a big object and subject. We can recognize this by the number of works and authors, by the seriousness and enthusiasm of the writers. This shows the important role and position of intellectuals in society. The presence of intellectuals in Vietnamese modern society is indispensable. This is also a manifestation of the process of modernizing Vietnamese literature.
The subject of intellectual in Vietnamese literature after the August Revolution in 1945.
- The subject of intellectual in Vietnamese revolutionary literature (1945–1975)
Whether or not the subject of intellectual in Vietnamese revolutionary literature? This question has been the concern of many cultural, literary researchers, and readers who love Vietnamese literature. If the answer is no, then it will be skepticism due to its irrationality. Since the appearance of modern intellectuals, they have had far-reaching participations in many aspects of social life. In any circumstance, intellectuals have been always timely present and made important contributions for the country.
When the August Revolution succeeded, after a confusing time, many of them came to the Resistance war of the nation. For the independence, the intellectuals have volunteered to change what they were difficult to gain and assert their individual ego. They became soldiers not only on the cultural front, but they also lived, wrote and fought for the country's sake. When they fallen in line with the battlefield and mixed with the soldiers who are farmers and workers, they had another concern that was patriotism and comradeship. At that time, between to live and to die, the soldiers had nothing but the love of surrounding people who were called comrades [3; 182]. They became the central figure of the era and the image of the lower middle class intellectuals was no longer the same.
This does not mean that the subject of intellectuals was not mentioned in Vietnamese literature from 1945 to 1975. Although not receiving attention as the topic of struggle against foreign invaders and socialist construction, readers can still find the works either directly or indirectly reflecting on the subject of intellectuals. In revolutionary literature, intellectuals sometimes became main characters in literary works (not much), sometimes they were beside or inside the mass and soldier character (many). Wherever they were and sometimes they were criticized, the role of intellectuals has not been lost. Whether they were characters in literary works or writers, they still had a place of honor: to be writers — soldiers on the cultural and artistic front, and contributed significantly in the struggle against foreign invaders of the nation. As such position, intellectuals in our country have made important contributions to the national reunification. That is enough for the subject of intellectuals exists in the revolutionary literature of Vietnam although it did not flourish as before or later.
2.2.The subject of intellectuals in Vietnamese literature from 1975 to present.
In 1975, the Resistance war against America successes, Vietnam unified the country. Vietnamese literature continued with the epic inspiration as the 1945–1975 periods. However, there were more and more signs of change emerged, such as Nguyen Minh Chau, Nguyen Khai, Ma Van Khang, Ho Anh Thai, and so on.
In 1986, Vietnamese literature had a strong transformation. The habit of «Painting in bright colour» and «Painting a gloomy picture» had no place in literature. In fact, for a long time, many writers have felt suffocating when the literature could not raise the true to life voice. Nothing is absolute, behind the victory must be the sacrifice, behind a smile is tears, the simplicities and innocence are increasingly overwhelmed by the scrambles. There is another struggle which is very harsh, happening every day and every hour around us. In this struggle, the intellectuals must face so difficult realities that they sometimes have no way to confront. Thereby, the fate of modern Vietnamese intellectuals has become a great concern of writers and the public. Some of works were generated right before the Renovation and many of works came out shortly after the decision of Renovation was promulgated. These are famous works of Nguyen Khai (Meeting of the year, Time of the human, A small human world, and so on), Nguyen Huy Thiep (Retired General, No King, Rural Lessons, To mourn over the countryside, and so on,), Nguyen Minh Chau (Thepainting, The boat in the distance, etc), Pham Thi Hoai (The Republic of poets, AK master story, the scholar of capital, To write as a treatment), Ma Van Khang in both short stories (Master Khien, Engaging in dangerous places, etc) and novels (Summer Rain, The wedding does not have a wedding certificate, To go it alone, Inverting flood water) and so on. These vivid evidences show that the subject of intellectual has been cherished by writers from the pre-renewal period and was at this time eligible to be exposed.
So the subject of intellectual has actually come back, and in this return, the image of intellectuals has been more complete, painful but stronger and more drastic than before.
- Nguyen Minh Chau (1987), “Let’s read the condolence for the stage of illustrative art”. Letters and Arts magazine (49, 50).
- Nguyen Khai (1996), Selected short stories, Writers Association Publishing House, Hanoi.
- Le Luu (1996), The antiquities, Writers Association Publishing House, Hanoi.
- Nguyen Ngoc (2002), Cultural identity of Vietnam, Literature Publishing House, Hanoi.
- Nguyen The Quang (2015), The pine is howling in the mountain, Youth Publishing House, Ho Chi Minh City.
- Nguyen Thi Tien (2005), Intellectual character in the novel of Ma Van Khang, Master thesis in literature, Vinh University.
- Ho Anh Thai (2014), Autobiography of 265 days, Youth Publishing House, Ho Chi Minh City.
- Nguyen Huy Thiep (2003), Short story of Nguyen Huy Thiep.