Non-epic inspiration and types of characters in some Vietnamese novels in «Doi Moi» period
Ву Т. Х. Non-epic inspiration and types of characters in some Vietnamese novels in «Doi Moi» period // Филология и лингвистика. 2017. №2. С. 7-10. URL https://moluch.ru/th/6/archive/59/2531/ (дата обращения: 26.05.2018).
This article studies changes in inspiration when composing some Vietnamese novels after the year 1986. In particular, the article explains how the characters were invented in these novels. The way to choose a type of character in a novel has shown changes in composing thought of novelists in order to portray real life in a particular historical period of Vietnam.
Key words: inspiration, non-epic, novel, character, innovative period, Vietnamese literature
The art of inspiration is an internal energy that helps a writer to complete his work. Every type of inspiration will produce a type of work as well as a type of a character. Characters with universal stature are the result of literature works that are written by epic inspiration. The type of novel character is inspired by private life. Representative novels of literature in the innovative period are transformation in composing inspiration.
The image of soldier in Vietnamese novels after the year 1986.
- If characters in Vietnamese novels have been mainly of epic stature, representing community, class, and nation before 1986, in the Doi Moi period, they are people of ordinary life, abused serfs, rebellious and destroyed characters, and people with inherent complex characteristics.
«Non-epic» inspiration allows writers to explore deeply the reality of war and soldier from various aspects and multiple levels of value. The soldier is described not only as a community person, but also as an individual person, a value not just of civic ethics. Human being not only exists as political consciousness, but also as an individuality with all its plenty and complexity. Vietnamese novels exploited the exploring penchant about soldier theme in his private life in the period 1986–2000, for example Nguyen Van in the Ben khong chong novel of Duong Huong, Dong in Mua la rung trong vuon of Ma Van Khang, Hai Hung in An may di vang of Chu Lai, etc. War heroes now live in real life as a specific destiny.
Dong is gentle, simple in everything. The retired lieutenant colonel is now a tedious uninterested hopeless person, unworried; indifferent to every event of life. He has only one fun thing that is a game of tổ tôm. A hero went back from the battlefield with lieutenant colonel and victories in the battle. He is a pride of his family, but in the non-epic sense of novels in the Doi Moi period Dong is only a private soldier in an ordinary life. The winner in the battlefield becomes a loser affected by battle in usual life. Happiness breaks up; Dong is both a victim and culprit of family tragedy.
Nguyen Van in Ben khong chong of Duong Huong ends his life because of love in embitterment and humiliation with a silent death in the river of Dong village. Medals are to bear evidence of merits in the battle that have not redeemed the sin of incest. Who could defend a person against his sin that he has slept with his beloved daughter, the daughter he-Nguyen Van loved as his child.
It is possible to recognize familiar characters in novels of the Doi Moi period. They are soldiers who have gone back after the war, but everyone has a different destiny. There are three types of characters in common. Firstly, those who still retain qualities of a soldier that is they do not change both their style and their feelings and thoughts: wearing military uniforms and implementing a lifestyle as in the war. They could not escape the mission that has become their life, and the battle becomes a real «career». Secondly, soldiers of the war, but they are not heroes. They are often young, are more or less afraid of bombs. They have changed completely, have become wealthy bosses, have lived a luxury life. They have still memorized the past faintly. Thirdly, heroes in the battle with many wounds both physical and soul. They have become freakish people in the society, are completely strange with a new life, could not integrate and live with the obsession of war years, always would like to find the lost heroic past, and become the «past beggars».
What caused the battle heroes to become lost people in the ordinary life? The life has changed; new age began with good and bad things as a river in the flood season. The soldier is not trained to fight with invisible, live and good fight enemies. The battle with fireless guns did not kill their bodies, but killed their souls.
Due to various reasons, there was a time of an abnormal state, when literature in general included novels avoiding tragedy and sadness. This is a right necessary choice for inevitable demands of history. However, when the life has returned to normal flow in all its inherent complexity with pleasure and sadness, happiness and suffering of misfortune fate, unfinished lives, loneliness and weakness, miserable circumstances, unhappy risks, unjustifiable obstacles on each life-step, etc, the appearance of tragedy and sadness in literature could be considered as a spontaneous thing, an appreciate claim, and as a sacred duty, a debt of literature to life.
The aestheticism of post-modern accepts higher demands of readers that results that writers must have genuine works that bring the breath of life, and reflect the nature of human being. Authentic literature is not a trite document with a «one-side look». It is time for literature to discover compassion in the human soul.
1.2. We do think that in Vietnamese novels in the period 1986–2000 there are some types of characters such as heroes in the postwar, lonely, rebellious, tragic people, new bosses, powerless before reality. It is proven by such examples as in An may di vang of Chu Lai, Mua la rung trong vuon and Dam cuoi khong co giay gia thu of Ma Van Khang, Manh dat lam nguoi nhieu ma of Nguyen Khac Truong, Than phan cua tinh yeu of Bao Ninh, Dan than of Xuan Cang, The gioi khong co dan ba of Bui Anh Tan, Ben khong chong of Duong Huong, Co hoi cua chua of Nguyen Viet Ha, Tien biet nhung ngay buon of Trung Trung Dinh, Cuon gia pha de lai of Doan Le, Goc tam toi cuoi cung of Khuat Quang Thuy.
Postwar soldiers are a type of character that received much preference of writers. They were an important character image in literature in the period 1945–1975. In the years from 1975 to 1985, they were referred to as the anthem continuation about soldiers who created heroic historical pages of the nation. It is not only literature, but there is also all of art types to focus on reflecting, praising, honoring their noble qualities. However, literature works were written during the wartime in order to praise soldiers. It seems that there is lack of some things about soldiers, so we read about them and watch them without familiarity. We only see them in the battle posture; rarely see them injured or dead. They were mentioned briefly. There are only triumphs and victories. The sons and daughters of the country leave in flags and flowers, in the encouraging chants of their relatives and union. They rushed into the battlefield with a win confidence and they won. Due to great victories, people forget scarifies, loss, pain in the body and soul. While in the triumphal hymn these things were not mentioned, Vietnamese novels in the period 1986–2000 have become sincere works that help us to understand them more.
Postwar soldiers are not heroes; they are normal people in the sense of this word. Whether directly or indirectly, they showed us things that we have never seen before. They told us about their heroic past, but in the beautiful past, there was also evil, coward, barbarian, humiliation, ignorance and awakening of personality, dignity, altruism, and humanity. When the soldier returns, how do they live? Who are they in the midst of a life with traps and temptations, between forgetfulness and ungratefulness; between this, cold and harsh «market mechanism»? To answer such questions it takes time and it is important to have a lot of heart. We do think that novels about soldiers in the period 1986–2000 have done this point.
1.3. The novel «Mot the gioi khong co dan ba» of Bui Anh Tan has a new type of a character. They are «homosexual». In real life, everyone can accept them. However, these are characters in the novel. They also have fates, emotional life as ordinary people, but only sex-life is unusual. This is also first time gay issues have been considered in literature. After all, it is a matter of life, but this is a matter of different kinds of people in a society. To pay attention to them more accurately or to their emotional life is to acknowledge the reality of our society, that there is a kind of emotion far different from ordinary people. To accept homosexuals as a part of humanity and community, it has to have certain sympathy. This is a great barrier that is uneasy to overcome in many people’s awareness. People like Hoang, Thanh Trung, Le Vien, Pham Hong Bang, Hai, etc are not anomalous. These people have an abnormal past, but that is not an only reason. When they were born, they were abnormal people in the world. If they encounter with a «favorable condition» from subjective or objective, they would participate in emotional harm.
Sex is a new topic in literature, but referring to it as a theme equalizes with other topics is an innovation of writers in the process of composition. There are many Vietnamese novels in the period 1986–2000 that mentioned the theme of sex spontaneously. The sexual appetite story is a delicate topic, but nowadays it is written by writers very naturally. So readers do not blush to read about papers, which describe sex story. The social life is changing day by day; the country is also changing from time to time in the context of open economy. Everything unwinds as a compressed spring for a long time, so sex is the same.
When reading «Co hoi cua Chua» of Nguyen Viet Ha, we feel that when people are materially full, lonely, abandoned they are easy to disengage. Then sex becomes a salvation for many people. The incest is not salvation, but the disengagement and debauchery are. From a drug addict without a career to a genuine intellectual, from a noble prince to a daughter of a plebeian could also be ephemera of the flesh. Love or sex? How can it be clearly separated? People live and love innocently; they have sex together and get pregnant spontaneously, and then they separate naturally as if is a job, such as breathing and life.
After all, society has many changes. Human emotions will also change, that is a natural thing. The economy of Vietnam is reaching out to horizons. Trains are bringing many dollars, and are also bringing more trash. We could not afford to choose and deny any thing, that like a river which brings fish, sediment, and water for irrigation. But sometimes it also brings floods or forces us to build bridges. Vietnamese typical novels in the period 1986–2000 reflected truly complexity and mixture of life. As Thu Ha says: «The country’s most vibrant years have shifted from a subsidized economy to a market economy, the fate is governed by harsh rules without resistance .»
1.4. Studying Vietnamese novel from 1986 to 2000, we do suppose that there haven’t been mentioned a type of character that has discovered by Nam Cao from the early years of the Anti-French War. They are ignorant and powerful. In the Doi Mat that was written in 1948, Nam Cao discovered a writer — Hoang who commented on the chairman of a street. That chairman is only a seller who sales heart-porridge, so he only knows how to make soup without other things. He does not know how to be a chairman, why he must be him. In the novel Ben khong chong by Duong Huong there is a character who appreciates people to comment. This character is Dot «Dom rang». «Dot» is Mr. Hach’s son, who always wears only a patchy dress of his father and hangs out on edge of ditches to catch Rana limnocharis that are used to catch Varunidae« [2, p.8]. Then he became a chairman of commune. And he showed himself clearly in his dialogue as below:
«Dot is strict and rotates the paper in his hand, but he still has not recognized yet that he is reading paper while holding in the reverse direction.
One old man said: «Thanks to him for writing paper».
Chairman-Dot scratches his neck: «Do you sell your house?»
The old man: «No, my calf is going to tow a plough. I would like to ask the commune to sell my buffalo.»
Chairman: «So you are going to sell buffalo?» [2, p.6]
And this chairman thought of a plan to kill reactionaries of Dong village: «No! Mr. Hao must be killed by Mr. Thuoc». Dot smiles, his eyes narrow, and he whispers to Van’s ears that this is a chance to check Mr. Thuoc’s loyalty to the Party. He is the most beloved adopted child of Mr. Hao from childhood, do you understand? Your duty is to shoot at heads of two your Nguyen brothers [2, p.52].» Was there a kind of character as Dot-chairman in literature in the past as well as in the future or not?
The new chairman gave out a first decision that is to immediately destroy «Am chung sinh» – an open platform to worship in the middle of village, to chase Ms. Then because he supposes that this place is superstitious. Astronomic platforms are to worship bureaucrats of village and district, which were also destroyed because this is a manifestation of feudalism. Steel that was made by stone to write name of predecessors who have merits with court and people are lowered to pave the way. The women association in village pagodas is disbanded. He does think that it is necessary to chant and pray early in the day, and they have to labor. Particularly, the ancient house was renovated as a drying ground for cooperative, and cleaned all of worship objects in the house to make a place for elderly and children to play. All attributes that are used to pick up someone who has a high social status, such as king palankeen, fan, flags, etc were transformed into firewood. Decrees and books were fired completely because it is the remnant of feudalism and superstition. This is the direction of commune chairman [5, p.45].
And this authority chairman became an associate professor, deputy doctor, vice director and director of a scientific research institute. «He is a bloated person with a full satisfaction on his flesh face and an imposing gait with a frown face when he gets angry with his subordinates and dilates quickly turning into a flower smile when he meets his superiors. He has too many titles, and on his business card he writes a lot of his titles that are nominal and only used to boast. That is a manifestation of no good scientist. In studies of teaching staff, the Institute must always be solemn on a first page. If without this patronage, it would be difficult to adjust and invest pour research money, which everyone knows about and that has become the norm. The level of this director is very questionable. There are many people who asserted that he has to spend a lot of time and money to get a chance for PhD course in the Soviet Union. However, they saw him appearing at the flea markets more than in the school [6, p. 93]. Also this scientist uses the authority of a director to decide, agree or disproportionate on the scientific subjects of other legitimate scientific researchers.
Writers are not only the secretaries of the times, but are also «prophets». They give out forecasts of social phenomena at least. A type of a character as a social phenomenon has become a problem for economic, scientific, social management of Vietnam over a long period of subsidy regime.
«Goc tam toi cuoi cung» novel of Khuyat Quang Thuy is a work with a small volume, but the problem, that writer gave out, is the belief in human kindness. Human being’s soul is a magical world. This is a place in which sun and normal light will never shine. There is only the benevolence of people who have compassion. Mr. Dan used to participate in the Anti-French War. He fled the past to live a peaceful and virtuous life. «He worked for the hospital in ten years with many hard, dirty jobs without salary, but there is nobody to take care of him. His house is like a duck tent, and located in an area in which is a far corner of town, and people still usually dump the rubbish herein [4, p.12].» This is a «Dia — Leech» village where the electric light of town could not light up. The «Xom ngu cu — inhabited village» is a paradise of people who like Mr. Dan, wanderers, demimondaine, the poor, but there are people who have compassion. A person, who is still carrying a pair of wooden crates to bury new-born children, gave us deep and hearted insights. When he comments on a towing cow that has to obey its master, he said: «It is a cow. It only pulls the cart for you when it ate enough. And human-being works not only for foods but also for his conscience [4, p. 13].»Then, his old friend encouraged him: «Well then! How can it be both happy, successful people and virtuous one [4, p. 15]». The light of soul is a light resource that has enough power to penetrate the darkest places of «Heaven on the Earth». Sometimes, these darkest, most dirty places in society also illuminate the miraculous light of loving kindness. The message that Khuat Quang Thuy would like to send to readers is the belief in the light of compassion. What our society is, if there is no one who knows about how to live for others, sacrifices themselves to be happy. This veteran could do things that people feel horrific. He keeps silence to forgive crime. He forgave his boss — Mr. Thuoc who raped his fiance. However, his forgiveness created a chance for that vermin to climb higher and higher on the ladder of glory.
The soldier character in the postwar is an important topic of Vietnamese modern literature. There are many novels, which are written about soldiers. It is not a slipping on inertia, but is a impulse of writers’ conscience, especially those who have participated personally in war, used to witness and live in those glorious days. This is a way to writers go through the life of type of a character that they are interested in. The repercussion of wars is still echoing here. The literature still has many aspects to exploit and will certainly gain many worthy achievements. In a word, the novel has regained its balance on the difficult journey of the literature. Regardless to any angle, Vietnamese novels after 1986 have also pointed out the fact that the country has changed, i.e. people with new emotional states, thoughts, torments have changed their sense of life. This helps us to have a look at life truly and with more humanity.
- Nguyen Viet Ha. Opportunities of God. Literature Publishing House, 1999.
- Duong Duong. Non-Husband, Hai Phong Publishing House, 2004.
- Bui Anh Tan. A World Without Women. Public Security Publishing House, 2004.
- Khuat Quang Thuy. Last dark corner. Thanh Nien Publishing House, 2004.
 Tổ tômis a draw-and-discard card game played in Vietnam, usually by men.
 Rana limnocharis is a species of frog found widely distributed in South Asia
 Varunidae is a family of lizards of the superfamily Varanoidea