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Memories of a Pure Spring
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Memories of a Pure Spring

By Duong Thu Huong
Translated by Nina McPherson and Phan Huy Duong
2000, 337 pages, hardback.
Book Description from the Front Cover Flap
Comments from Back Cover
About the Author

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Book Description from the Front Cover Flap

From Vietnam's most acclaimed writer and famous dissident, Duong Thu Huong, comes a mesmerizing novel set during and after the Vietnam War. Through the story of Suong, a celebrated singer, and Hung, her composer husband, Memories of a Pure Spring depicts the strengthening of a marriage amidst the chaos of war and its dissolution following the war's end.

During the war, Hung meets Suong, a young peasant girl, and is struck by her voice and her beauty. He invites her to join his performing troupe and makes her his wife, opening a world of opportunities for Suong. The two become a team, entertaining the troops with Suong singing Hung's compositions. After the war, however, Hung is forced from his job, setting off a wrenching series of events. Anger and pity drive Suong and Hung apart, and their downward spiral of destruction finally leads to a moving and unexpected climax.

In breathtakingly lyrical prose, Duong Thu Huong paints an intimate portrait of modern Vietnam as she uncovers the lies people tell others and themselves. While many of her characters ultimately compromise their ideals, they are above all profoundly human in their struggle to survive under the complexities of the post-war regime. Memories of a Pure Spring draws heavily on the experiences of its author, vividly describing life at the battlefront, the inhuman conditions in a "re-education" camp, and the texture and rhythm, scents and sounds, of a provincial Vietnamese city. At the same time, it tells a simple, universal story of failed love that is as haunting as it is riveting.

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Comments from Back Cover About the Author's Other Books

Paradise of the Blind

"Astonishingly powerful ... a simple but beautifully told story of a civil war within a family."
- Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Draws back the curtain on postwar Vietnam A literary jewel dripping with politcal nitroglycerine."
- Entertainment Weekly

"The first major woman's voice to reach our shores from all of Asia ... will take your breath away and invade your dreams."
- Mademoiselle

"Duong Thu Huong describes the problems of ordinary people and the contradictions of political reform openly ... Paradise of the Blind is a daring work of fiction."
- The New York Times

Novel Without a Name

"Reminiscent of All Quiet on the Western Front and The Red Badge of Courage ... a breathtakingly original work."
- San Francisco Chronicle

"A poetic, painful, and universal story of the real spoils of war: horror, death, and the corrosion of the soul."
- The Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly

"If it is a crime to take an unflinching look at the reality of war and of life under a totalitarian regime, and to do it with great art and mastery, then Duong Thu Huong is gloriously guilty."
- The New York Times Book Review

"Extraordinary and profoundly tragic."
- The Boston Sunday Globe

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Background on Duong Thu Huong and the Translators from the Back Cover Flap

Duong Thu Huong was born in Vietnam in 1947. At the age of twenty, she led a Communist Youth Brigade sent to the front as singers during the Vietnam War. Of the volunteer group of forty, she was one of three survivors. A vocal advocate of human rights and democratic political reform, she was expelled from the Communist Party in 1989 and imprisoned without trial for seven months in 1991. The Vietnamese government has banned all of her novels. She lives in Hanoi.

Translators Nina McPherson and Phan Huy Duong live in Paris. They also translated Duong Thu Huong's Paradise of the Blind and Novel Without a Name.

More Background on Duong Thu Huong

Memories of a Pure Spring is set amidst the tremendous and disorienting material and psychological changes the Vietnamese faced in the 1980s after three decades of war. While the central character, a talented composer who runs afoul of the Communist Party authorities, is fictional, the broad lines of his fate - disillusionment with the Party, imprisonment, and ultimately, internal exile - closely parallel the author's own life and current predicament in Vietnam. Like her hero, Duong Thu Huong is a veteran who spent ten years in the tunnels and air-raid shelters of central Vietnam, the most heavily bombarded front of her country's "American War." She too was the leader of an artistic troupe and youth brigade sent to "sing louder than the bombs." One of just three survivors of that brigade, Huong emerged after the war as one of the most talented and widely read novelists of her generation, her first novels selling hundreds of thousands of copies. But when her best-selling novel Paradise of the Blind scandalized the Party authorities in 1988 by depicting the disastrous Maoist-style 1953-1956 land reform, Huong was publicly criticized and the work suddenly withdrawn from circulation. Again, like her hero, Duong Thu Huong found herself transformed overnight from patriot to pariah: Expelled from the Party, out of a job as a screenwriter, and unable to find a publisher who would dare to publish her novels, she became a kind of exile in her own land. In 1991, after sending abroad the manuscript of her Novel Without a Name - the first novel by a northern veteran to chronicle widespread disillusionment with the war effort and the Party leadership - Huong was imprisoned for seven months without trial on trumped up charges of "sending state secrets abroad." Though she has not been allowed to publish any of her novels in Vietnam since her release, almost ten years ago, she continues to live and write in Hanoi.

-Nina McPherson

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