Contentious Vietnamese novels translated in US

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English translations of two best-selling novels by Ho Anh Thai, one of Vietnam's best- known writers, will be published on October 15.

Texas Tech University Press will print "Cõi người rung chuông tận thế" as "Apocalypse Hotel" and "Đức Phật, nàng Savitri và tôi" will be published under the title "The Buddha, Savitri and I."

"Apocalypse Hotel" was edited by Wayne Karlin, professor of languages and literature at the College of Southern Maryland, who has written ten novels and nonfiction books, and edited numerous works about Vietnam.

According to Chibook's website, the novel is about a group of young men, all from nouveau riche families, who visit a beach, where they meet a girl who possesses a "ghostly" beauty"”a beauty so striking that one of the men attempts to rape her in the sea.

However, he immediately dies mysteriously, and the girl disappears. His friend, follows the girl to Hanoi, where he plans to kill her because he thinks she killed his friend. His plan is to strangle her and then hang her, making it seem as if she committed suicide. But he is found hung himself before he can carry it out. The third man, also vengeful, finds the girl in Ho Chi Minh City. He plans to run her over with his motorcycle, but he is killed in a mysterious road accident.

The Vietnamese edition of the novel was first released in October 2002 by Da Nang Publishing House, after numerous other publishers refused to print it due to potentially divisive content. In the last ten years, the book has sold over 100,000 copies and has been received by the public and critics as a provocative tale of a war-torn culture.

"The Buddha, Savitri and I," whose English version was translated by Jonathan R.S. McIntyre, was released in 2007 and is the first Vietnamese novel to contemporize the Buddha.

Thai's style is simple but he uses a multi-layered story structure that plays with time and space.

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The story takes place on the Nepalese-Indian border, where the narrator meets Savitri, a young female tourist guide.

As she takes him to various Buddhist sites in India and Nepal and finds that his guide is a brilliant storyteller.

Through her long talks, the entire life of the Buddha is retold.

But the narrator discovers that these tales are not the every day thrills provided by tour guides; the stories actually transport her listeners. As they travel, Savitri's own mysterious and surprising life is gradually revealed.

Born in Hanoi in 1960, Ho Anh Thai is one of the most prolific writers in Vietnam. He has published more than twenty novels and short story collections that have been translated into ten languages, including English, French and Swedish.

His books have always been bestsellers and critics argue that the real phenomenon of his work is that he has a large readership despite his escape from formulaic form and language.

Thai, chairman of the Hanoi Writers' Association, graduated from the Hanoi Institute of International Studies in 1983. After graduation, he worked as a diplomat and journalist abroad, mostly in India. Fluent in several foreign languages, he earned a Ph.D. in Oriental Studies and he is also a lecturer and an Indologist. At present he is working for the Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In addition to Thai's novels, a series of Vietnamese short stories by famous local writers, including Ma Van Khang, Le Minh Khue, Ho Anh Thai, Phan Thi Vang Anh, and Doan Le has just been published in Korean.

The anthology of the Vietnamese Short Stories was translated by Professor Kim Jaeyong from English and was published by Korea's Geulnurim Publishing House.

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