Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Handwritten letters of the Vietnamese people during the last hundred years are on display at an exhibition in Hà Nội.
The exhibition is hosted by A Letter Home, a homestay accommodation provider, a space of patisserie, café and books.
This is very different from art exhibitions because visitors can spend an entire day reading hundreds of letters in Vietnamese, English and French, sent by intellectuals, artists, writers and people in a family. Some of them are love letters while some are official documents.
“Handwritten letters could very well be the most beautiful means of communication between humans,” said Nguyễn Dạ Thương, 30, owner of A Letter Home.
“They not only store information but also lessen conflicts between us,” Thương said.
“When you write something down and send it to another person, things slow down, and if the anger is present, it will be eased.”
“Intellectuals, collectors, even families have been storing these letters for years through generations. Some still keep writing letters as a habit, which is such a natural, quiet, and beautiful thing that moves me.”
“I would like to share this quiet beauty through this exhibition. I hope that visitors can imagine the eras of writing and written words in Việt Nam, the complicated details in handwritten letters in the earlier years – customised letter paper, seals, symbols, stamps, signature paper size – and gain more knowledge on handwriting and words.”
Thương collected these letters for many years as she had a passion for collecting old books.
“During the process of collecting, I encountered some very interesting ones in the last 100 years, those of intellectuals, of normal people, even letters about work.”
The oldest letters in her collection date back to 1905. They are words of a labourer sent to a landlord to ask for an extension of time to repay his debt.
Visitors can read stories of poet Mộng Tuyết (1914-2007), the first female poet to publish poems in the Vietnamese language, and her friends; letters between scholar Vương Hồng Sển (1902-96) and Vietnamese and French intellectuals at his age; and letters of poor writers of the Tự Lực Văn Đoàn (Self-reliance Literary Group, a literary movement that produced the first modern novels in Việt Nam and initiated a new poetry shaped by nationalist and anti-colonial sentiments in 1930s) expressing their difficulties and asking for annuity.
“A typed writing can help a writer tell the lie but a handwritten letter can’t hide the emotion and feeling of the writer,” musician Quốc Bảo said.
“We can know one’s personality and characteristics through hand-writings,” he said.
“Letters can carry writers’ love. It’s more than a vehicle to transfer information. Handwritten letters help send love, admiration and emotion.”
The exhibition will run until February 7 at A Letter Home, 20 Lane 33 Tân Ấp Street, Hà Nội. — VNS