The past year has seen a surge of interest in local lit. From open calls for poetry and prose in startups like Ajar Magazine and Sonder Quarterly, to incorporation in art shows like San Art’s Echoing Nostalgia or Standpoint Theories. Phong Duong Comics raised VND330 million in a crowdfunded effort to bring their historical fantasy manga Long Than Tuong — ‘Dragon Spirit-General’ — back to life. In the creative community, this stuff strikes a chord like little else.
In Vietnamese lit’s post-Doi Moi coming-out party, burning voices like those of writers Bao Ninh and Nguyen Huy Thiep set the bar at a hard-to-follow height. Though the rest of the world has largely moved on, those paying attention have tracked its subtle evolution (check diacritics.org and vietnamlit.org for more of this). The close links between politics and writing in Confucian cultures leads some to look for literature with mass impact, but the literary leadership we’ve seen is better measured on an individual scale, fighting battles for recognition, not change.
To some, it’s a bit of a comedown. For us, however, it’s a vibrant affirmation of how Vietnam has moved on from a country with only a handful of individual stories, to one in which everyone has a tale to tell.