|Good reception: Translator Lise Nguyễn.— Photo courtesy of Lise Nguyễn|
The Vietnamese version of the French acclaimed book Le Bonheur en Cinq Lettres (Happiness in Five Letters) was presented to the public in Hà Nội in mid September.
The book is the story of a mother who dies and who leaves five letters her children have to open and read every year on the anniversary of her death.
Translated by Lise Nguyễn (real name Nguyễn Hương Huế) with the title Hạnh Phúc Trong 5 Lá Thư Của Mẹ, has been warmly welcomed in Việt Nam.
The young translator, who once taught at the Sorbonne University in France, talks with Vương Bạch Liên about the book.
Reading culture in Việt Nam is not it used to be, but 1,500 copies of the book were sold in only a couple of weeks it was published. How do you feel?
I was very surprised when the publishing house told me about the result. It was beyond my expectations. I thought the book might not attract many readers because of its traditional theme (mother’s love). Moreover, I thought few Vietnamese were interested in reading print books. I even thought that I could only sell them to my friends and friends of my friends. But I was wrong. Only less than 100 friends bought the book. And the rest was sold to the public. I am happy people are ready to spend money to buy books because reading is the source of a developed cultural life.
Why did you chose to translate this book, among many others interesting works?
There are many good books, but I chose this one because I find it really interesting. It talks about mother’s love, a sacred sentiment that people cherish more and more as they get older. Moreover, it brings us an attitude more positive towards life.
I love the final sentence of the book. It is also the strongest message the author wants to convey. It’s hope. “Hope. So, we are on the right road”. None can avoid failure and losses. But instead of being desperate and mourning for the past, people should have the courage to accept failures, face them and be optimistic while expecting the best.
I also wanted to dedicate the book to a good friend. My friend had a positive life attitude and faced disease with much courage. I never told her about my feelings, but from the bottom of my heart, I deeply admired her courage. I hope she stays strong and that she knows that I’ll stay beside her, always.
You are busy at work and at home as mother of two. So why did you want to translate books?
Books are great teachers. Myself and people of my generation can learn a lot from books. In the early 80s, my parents, like others, worked hard to earn money to feed the family and afford to send us to school.
Life was difficult and we had no travel - and no access to efficient education apart from school.
Besides the basic knowledge that I learned at school, reading books helped me a lot to discover the world and the ways of looking at life. After many years busy with studies and work, one day I told myself that if I could translate a book which has a meaningful message, I would be very happy even though it may not be widely sold. So I started the translation.
You are doctor of economics. Is there any link between economics and mathematics and book translation? Does your knowledge of the subjects help you in translation?
I think that there is a link. Mathematical and economic reflection helped me to achieve a coherence in the writing. Not only in the translation of books, but also in the writing of the letters and texts or in communication in daily life.
The economic analysis may not convince anyone if they are not clear and logic. And you know that economics is all based on mathematics, which must be logical. If one can combine the romanticism in literature and the logicality of mathemics-economics, he or she can bring a more modern breath to the language.
What do you want to say to young people who love literature and want to be professional translators?
If they want to translate books, they should not hesitate. And they should travel and experience life as much as possible. And if possible, they should travel to countries where they love the language. Watch, listen, touch and live those moments to the fullest.
With some experiences myself, I believe that whatever we do, we should respect it and be passionate about it.
When you give, you surely receive back. Without respect, and without doing things seriously, you cannot achieve success, either with work or with people.— VNS