Artist Trương Bách Tường. Photo courtesy of the artist
Trương Bách Tường recently released his first book entitled Hội An – Loanh Quanh Chuyện Phố (Stories of Hội An Town) in Vietnamese.
The self-taught artist has been painting Hội An in the central province of Quảng Nam for 25 years and has written about the ancient town since in local magazines.
Việt Nam News reporter Nguyễn Bình chats with Tường about his book.
When did you decide to write the book?
I met a foreigner in 2012 and we talked a lot. When we said goodbye he told me that I should write about what I know about Hội An. He said that if I didn't write it I would regret it 10 years later.
I thought a lot and I decided to make the book. I’m a narrator in the book to describe what I hear and see in Hội An.
I have been living in Hội An for many years and met different people including Vietnamese and foreign tourists. I find that most of them like to listen and to read about the culture of the destination where they travel to.
More than half of the book is the articles that I have written over the years.
You are a Hội An native. How does this inform your writing about Hội An?
I was born and grew up in Hội An. I know many local people who know stories about Hội An by heart. They have old photos and old memories in their mind.
But it is not easy to get this information. It took eight years to complete the book. Hội An people are very difficult and extremely reserved about sharing information. When I meet them to get information they just tell me a little.
Then they kept watching my work and understood what I was doing was to preserve culture for young generations. They became more open and willing to provide information. They told me all what they know. They even collected more documents for me.
This is my first book. It was not easy for me. My friends who are writers helped me a lot. They gave me their comments and shared with me their writing experience. I have to thank my friends.
The book also has 80 old photos which I took and collected.
Could you tell us about the cultural characteristics of Hội An that are difficult for tourists to see?
Hội An has an integrated culture which combines traditional culture and different cultures over many historic periods. So it is difficult to find the depth of community relationship.
Actually, since 2015, tourism has been developing rapidly leading to a gap between business culture and traditional culture in Hội An. It is regretful.
What do you think about research and books about Hội An?
There are quite a lot of literary works and research on Hội An. They are professional and full of quality. But these works have not yet been gathered and introduced systematically and professionally.
Plus, for various reasons, they have not yet reached the public. On the other hand, many books were written as scientific research so they could not attract common readers.
As a result, there is a lack of books about Hội An.
BEAUTY: A photo of Hội An in the book. Photo courtesy of Trương Bách Tường
Will you continue to write about Hội An?
After the book launch, I received feedback from the audience. I think I’m on the right path.
I hope popular writers will have literary works on Hội An. It is not my wish only, it is a wish of Hội An people and Hội An lovers.
Between painting and writing about Hội An, which do you prefer?
I like both because sometimes I use colours to show my emotions, while some stories must be narrated.
Over the years, I have collected many rare documents about Hội An. I need time to write another book. VNS