Vietnamese novel wins the Southeast Asian Write Award

September 28, 2023 - 17:33
Vietnamese writer Vĩnh Quyền has won the Southeast Asian (SEA) Write Award for his novel Inside Infinity.
Thai Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya presented the SEA Write Award
to writer Vĩnh Quyền. — Photo courtesy of SEA Write Award

HÀ NỘI — Vietnamese writer Vĩnh Quyền has won the Southeast Asian (SEA) Write Award for his novel Inside Infinity.

The main character is a Vietnamese young man who has lived in America for several years collecting documents to write his masters thesis "The Country of Đại Nam - A Great Power of East Asia." His academic articles also surprise those who are used to thinking of Vietnam as a weak country: the writings confirm an analysis made by the World Bank, that the Vietnam of 1820 was a nation with an average personal income approaching the world average, becoming one of the five largest economies in East Asia, a feat that until now, nearly two centuries later, Vietnamese people have yet to replicate.

Then one day he suddenly learns he has a father living alone in Huế, who has fallen into a coma. The young man goes to be with his father, who passes away just ten days later. During this time, the father wakes briefly one final moment; he looks at his son and holds his hand, their first and also their last connection. But that is enough. The young man feels he is now complete.

Those ten days in the deserted villa, exploring shelves of ancient books, "conversing" with his father, a PhD of Ethnology, via scattered notes found in a laptop, the son spends searching for his roots... Each character's journey of mending fractures to connect the infinite past of the clan and of the Vietnamese people is the theme of the novel.

Inside Infinity assembles together various texts of various genres (notes, diary, short story, drama). While their common mission is to serve the narrative, nearly all of them stand independently. When readers encounter a text, they will become completely engrossed in it, at times even forgetting the novel itself. They will then realise that all these texts are in fact connected, and at the same time realise the value in reading them," commented American writer Zac Herman.

The cover of 'Inside Infinity' by writer Vĩnh Quyền, published by Trẻ (Youth) Publishing House. — Photo

Prior to the SEA Write Award, Inside Infinity won the second prize in the Novel Competition 2016-19 of the Việt Nam Writers Association.

"Thai Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya, on behalf of her father, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, awarded The SEA Write Award to me. It is an honour for writers in Southeast Asia," Quyền told Việt Nam News.

"I believe the venerable founders of this award are not just about stimulating the specific achievements in literary creation but promoting mutual interest and understanding among the countries in the area because literature is an excellent means of cultural exchange. This award has contributed to changing the reality that has existed for centuries that people in Southeast Asia are experts in the history, culture, and news of the Western countries rather than those of their nearest neighbouring countries.

"Therefore, I kindly expect all the works that have been granted with this award would be gathered in a Southeast Asia Literary Bookcase by the founders and would be translated into English, published, and introduced to the readers in and out of the region."

The SEA Write Award. — Photo courtesy of Vĩnh Quyền

Quyền, a member of the Việt Nam Writers Association and former head of the Lao Động newspaper representative office in Central and Central Highlands, Việt Nam, has authored 20 books in Vietnamese and three novels in English: Debris of Debris, Inside Infinity, and Heart for Forest.

His novel set in post-war Việt Nam, Debris of Debris, was published in the US in 2009 and in the United Kingdom in 2014. It won the second prize in the Novel Competition of 2011-15 organised by the Việt Nam Writers Association and is archived at the Library of Congress in the US.

The SEA Write Award, also known as the Southeast Asian Writers Award, is an annual literary prize that recognises outstanding works of literature by Southeast Asian writers.

It was established in 1979 by the Thai royal family in honour of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who was an accomplished writer himself. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards for three consecutive years (2019, 2020, and 2021) were presented together this year.

Alongside Quyền, Việt Nam had two authors honoured in 2019 and 2020 – poet Trần Quang Đạo and writer Võ Khắc Nghiêm. — VNS