Day 13: Paradise of the Blind

Across the first month of 2020, Sophie Baggott is sharing her thirty favourite books by women from across the world. Find out more about her project to read women writers from every country worldwide here.

I found Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong (tr. Phan Huy Duong & Nina McPherson) such a compelling read that I recommended it to Ann Morgan, who chose it as a Book of the Month last year – and writes far more eloquently about it than I do!

The story of a civil war within a family
The story of a civil war within a family

In a nutshell: A young woman, Hang, lucidly recalls her childhood in the Hanoi slums where she was forever torn between two sides of a family splintered by the Vietnamese Communist Party’s land reforms.

To pluck out a line“Hundreds of faces rose in my memory: those of my friends, people of my generation, faces gnawed with worry, shattered faces, twisted, ravaged, sooty, frantic faces.”

If I had to choose one image: Hang gazes out of a train window and feels wounded by the beauty of the Russian countryside under the stars – she paints a picture of light sparking off snowflakes, frail & luminous as a childhood dream.

Sharing a thought: This is an exquisite novel, overflowing with intoxicating imagery and devastating insights into what it was to grow up in such a contradictory era.

Fact: Aged 20, the author led a Communist Youth Brigade on the front in the war against the US – but as a vocal advocate of human rights & democratic political reform, she was expelled from the Vietnamese Communist Party in 1989 and imprisoned without trial for seven months; the authorities effectively banned all four of her novels and Duong was long forbidden from travelling abroad.

If you’d like to read Paradise of the Blind, please visit here.

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