Promoting Vietnamese Literature

Posted on: 20/01/2010

An international conference on promoting Vietnamese literature finished last Sunday in Ha Noi. More than 150 writers and translators from 31 countries attended the event.

Overseas Vietnamese Tran Thien Dao from France and Zhu Yang Xiu from China discussed how best to promote Vietnamese literature internationally.

Good translation is vital to promoting Vietnamese literature abroad. What does it entail?

Tran Thien Dao: Literature translation encompasses research, theory, criticism, etc. I would like to discuss fiction writing. Although translation on one level involves converting words from one language to another, the work is very creative.

Zhu Yang Xiu: Translation is both science and art. The translator does not rewrite but reads and translates original content. There was a Chinese writer who said: “If the original is whisky, the translation is brandy at the very least. It cannot be water.”

What do you think about the Vietnamese literature that has been translated into other languages, particularly Chinese?

Zhu Yang Xiu: Not much Vietnamese literature has been translated into Chinese. Promoting Vietnamese literature in China must take in two periods – before China’s culture revolution (1966-1976), which includes Vietnamese literature such as The Tale of Kieu by Nguyen Du and poetry by Ho Xuan Huong – and after the revolution. Work that has been translated into Chinese after that period mainly focuses on the theme of war, such as Dat Nuoc Dung Len (Country that’s Rising) by Nguyen Ngoc or Ong Co Van (The Adviser).

Tran Thien Dao: I think that translations must be accurate, fine and pure. Works that have been translated into French are accurate but not fine and pure.

What do you think of the standard of the translated works?

Tran Thien Dao: Of those translating Vietnamese literature into French, about 95 per cent has been done by translators who are overseas Vietnamese.

Translated works should be aimed at French readers not just Vietnamese researchers and Viet Nam lovers.

Zhu Yang Xiu: Not many Chinese translators are interested in Vietnamese literature. A translator must have a passion for the country’s literature and the country itself. It is important to find a publisher too. For example, before I translated The Adviser, I translated Chi Pheo, one of most famous stories by Nam Cao in 1941, but I could not find a publisher willing to take it on. They all said the story took place a long time ago and was no longer relevant.

How do you think Vietnamese literature should be promoted abroad?

Zhu Yang Xiu: Translations must connect different cultures. The work needs to be subsidised by the government. Viet Nam needs to set up a fund to support translations of Vietnamese literature into other languages.

Besides, a national award should be set up for the best translated works. The best works should be published and promoted globally.

Tran Thien Dao: Translators face many difficulties such as finding the necessary funds to complete the task.

Should the Viet Nam Writers Association set up a translation centre?

Tran Thien Dao: How will it operate?

Zhu Yang Xiu: I think it would be good to have such a centre. At the moment, translators have to find literature for themselves to translate. They have to invest their own resources. I’d translate Vietnamese literature if publisher commissioned me.



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