Colonial-era social critic's manuscripts exhibited

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Original handwritten manuscripts by late influential Vietnamese writer Vu Trong Phung, known for his biting social commentary and sarcastic humor, were exhibited at his 100th birthday celebration in Hanoi on Monday.

The Vietnam Writers' Association and the writer's family put on display the manuscripts of several of his novels, as well as first-edition copies of the published novels and articles in several magazines more than 80 years ago.

Vu Trong Phung, born on October 20, 1912, wrote nine novels and short story collections and hundreds of articles during his short life of 27 years. He is one of the most influential figures of 20th century Vietnamese literature.

In bitter tones and sharp realism, his writings also famously clever and often sardonically humorous depict the dark and unhappy reality of life under the jackboot of French colonialism.

Among his most famous works is "So Do" (Dumb Luck), published in 1936, which satirizes the late-colonial Vietnamese middle classes. He pokes fun at those who benefited from aiding French oppression. An English version was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2002.

"Ky nghe lay Tay" (The Industry of Marrying Europeans) was published in 1934 and depicts female-run brothels designed for Western guests. The madams have multiple husbands, who are mostly Westerners, and thus thirst for a kind, educated Vietnamese man.


Phung was also dubbed "the King of northern reporters" for his journalistic contributions to Hanoi News and Dong Duong Tap Chi (East Seas), the first Vietnamese language magazine in Hanoi founded in 1913 by French François-Henri Schneider and Vietnamese journalist Nguyen Van Vinh.

Phung died on October 13, 1939 of tuberculosis.

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