Viet Nam News
Noted writer Đỗ Bích Thúy wrote the novel Chúa Đất (Sage on the Mountain) in 17 days. The novel has received positive comments from critics following its release.
Thúy is a popular name in literature circles with 16 works, including the story Tiếng Đàn Môi Sau Bờ Rào Đá (Jew’s Harp Sound behind a Rocky Fence). The story was adapted into a movie, which won several international and domestic awards.
Culture Vulture interviews Thúy about her latest novel.
Your latest novel is a story of people from the Mông ethnic group. Could you tell us how your writing progressed?
I wrote the novel very quickly in some 17 days. Actually, I was asked to write a movie script by the Cinematography Department. After finishing the script I thought I could develop it into a novel.
Why are characters in your works always women?
I always write stories about women. The women from the mountainous regions, such as the Mông woman, are always appearing in my works. I’ve become obsessed with the Mông women who devote their lives to their families. Their dreams and their desires get eclipsed by their daily chores at home and on the farm.
I want them to have better lives, at least spiritually. I try to write about this in my books.
In Sage on the Mountain, I have portrayed the main character named Vàng Chở as a strong-willed woman. She is led by her emotions rather than her mind. She usually wants to live life on her own terms despite the dangers.
She lives a short life but is satisfied with it. I want to stress on Vàng Chở’s desire to enjoy life. Quality of life is more important than how long one lives.
I will publish a new novel which also focuses on a female character.
How did you depict the cultural characteristics typical of the Mông ethnicity in your new work so extensively? Is your intention aimed at preserving cultural values?
Yes, my writing also aims to preserve traditional culture. But there is other reason which is more important. In my personal viewpoint culture is the soul of a land. Each story with its unique place and name has its own cultural value.
If the writer only focuses on telling the story without highlighting the cultural values the literature work will not be honest and attractive.
People think they need to go for field trips to write about an area. While that holds true to write news or articles, it is not really essential to write literature.
I was born and grew up in the northern mountainous province of Hà Giang where people of the Mông live. As a result, the Mông culture is embedded in my mind.
Do you expect Sage on The Mountain to be sold out like your novel Tiếng Đàn Môi Sau Bờ Rào Đá?
Currently, it is difficult for literature works to be sold well but more copies of the Sage on the Mountain were reprinted after just two months of distribution. It is a good sign that encouraged me a lot. Honestly, I’ve never expected my work to be sold out. I have a stable readership that always welcomes my new books. It feels great.
You have written 16 books. Is it true that you are more professional and that is why you write books so easily and quickly?
No, it is not. I think that writing is getting more and more difficult for a writer. The most difficult is to write something new. To write something new I need to refresh myself. It is very difficult because creativity does tend to get affected by ones old thoughts. — VNS