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Celebrated Vietnamese novel to be published in Germany for the first time

Update: October, 25/2021 - 08:31

HÀ NỘI — A major work by the famous Vietnamese writer Vũ Trọng Phụng, Số Đỏ (Lucky Fate), will be published in Germany for the first time in December.

Published by the Tauland Publishing House in Cologne, the novel has been translated from Vietnamese by translator Hoàng Đăng Lãnh.

The cover of the German-language novel Số Đỏ (Lucky Fate) by Vietnamese writer Vũ Trọng Phụng. The book is due to be released in Germany in December. — Photo tauland-verlag.de

On its website, the German publishing house wrote: “Vu Trong Phung's masterpiece Lucky Fate presents the effects of French colonialism on Vietnamese society in the 1930s with humour and satire. Confronted with the shock of colonialism, the class of intellectuals and bourgeois in Vietnam see no other way out than to radically modernise their own native cultures.

Vu Trong Phung humorously unmasks the mistakes and absurdities of this Westernisation by telling the story of a sly young man who is the ball boy of a tennis court before becoming a medical doctor, a professional tennis player, and then the saviour of the nation.”

According to the publishing house, the novel reveals the devastating effects of colonialism on Việt Nam. The book also presents topical issues; the conflict between old and new, and between preservation and renewal.

In September, the novel was published in China. The Chinese-language version was translated by Associate Professor Xia Lu of the Beijng University, who earlier also translated the award-winning novel The Sorrow of War by Vietnamese author Bảo Ninh.

In 2002, the novel was published in the US by the University of Michigan Press under the title Dumb Luck. Peter Zinoman, an internationally recognised expert researcher on Vũ Trọng Phụng, is the translator and editor of the book, which then was named by the Los Angeles Times as one of 50 best books of 2003.

First published in Vietnamese in Hà Nội in 1936, the novel follows the absurd and unexpected rise within colonial society of a street-smart vagabond, Red-Haired Xuân.

From the filthy sidewalks of life, Red-Haired Xuân suddenly becomes a member of the upper-class thanks to the westernisation of Hà Nội's lower middle class in the 1930-45 period.

The novel charts Xuân's fantastic social ascent and provides a panoramic view of colonial social order.

The transformation of traditional Vietnamese class and gender relations triggered by the growth of colonial capitalism is a major theme.

Writer Vũ Trọng Phụng (1912-39) is among the country's most famous writers and journalists of the early 20th century. 

He began his literary career after releasing his first novel, Dứt Tình (Breaking Up), in 1934.

He released a series of realistic-style novels, such as Số Đỏ and Kỹ Nghệ Lấy Tây (Skills to Get Married to Westerners), focusing on the lives of locals and social issues in the semi-feudal colonial society during the French war.

Works like Giông Tố (Storm), and Làm Đĩ (Being a Prostitute) reflect "hidden corners" of the feudalistic society.

He also worked as a reporter for several newspapers in Hà Nội in the 1930s. He died of tuberculosis in 1939 when he was 27. VNS

 

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