Saturday, September 25 2021


Strange life of daughter of peasant hero

Update: October, 15/2017 - 09:00
Revealing: The cover of the memoirs written by the daughter of Hoàng Hoa Thám.- Photos courtesy of Omega Books Company
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Memoirs written by the daughter of Hoàng Hoa Thám, the leader of the Yên Thế peasant insurrection against the French, about her troubled childhood have gone on sale throughout Việt Nam. 

The memoirs, entitled Kỷ Niệm Thời Thơ Ấu (Childhood Memories), were translated into Vietnamese from the hand-written original version of the memoirs in French language by late poet Hoàng Cầm.

Born in 1901, Hoàng Thị Thế is daughter of Đặng Thị Nho (or Ba Cẩn, the third wife of Hoàng Hoa Thám -- 1858-1913), the leader of the Yên Thế peasant insurrection, who held out against French domination in northern Việt Nam for 29 years.

The Yên Thế Insurrection (1884-1913) was a popular revolt in the Yên Thế Mountains in Bắc Giang Province. It defied the Nguyễn dynasty’s collaborative stance. Hoàng Hoa Thám has since been respected as a national hero.

Thế is known for her strange destiny. At the age of  nine, she and her mother were arrested by French colonialists. After her mother was sent into exile in the South American French colony of Guiana, the girl was raised in Hải Phòng city and studied at a French school.  

Not many people know that after her father’s death in 1913 following the bloody suppression of the insurrection, she was adopted by Albert Sarraut, governor-general of French Indochina, and sent to France in 1917. He changed her name to Marie Beatrice Destham .  

In 1925, when she finished her studies at high school, she was sent back to Việt Nam and worked as a librarian at the Palace of the Superior Resident for Tonkin. She went back to Paris in 1927.

In Paris, Sarraut presented her as a princess of Việt Nam. Paul Doumer, then President of France after previously being Governor-General of French Indochina from 1897 to 1902, became her adopted farther and provided her with a special allocation. 

Being interested in cinema, she started to play roles in several films in France from 1930.

In the 1960s, she came back to Hà Nội with the help of  Phan Kế Toại, deputy prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Việt Nam. She first began to live in  Hà Bắc (the old name of the region comprising the provinces of Bắc Ninh and Bắc Giang). And then, she lived in Hà Nội from 1974 until her death in 1988.

Her Childhood Memories were written in 1963 in Hà Bắc. She wrote about her childhood and the ups and downs of her family which were marked by the battles in Yên Thế mountains during the insurrection.

The book was translated by poet Hoàng Cầm under the pen-name Lê Kỳ Anh and was first published in 1975. It was recently reprinted and was released nationwide this week by Omega Books and Social Science Publishing House. — VNS


Patriots: Hoàng Thi Thế stands next to her father Hoàng Hoa Thám. Photo


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