Nguyễn Huy Thiệp
Nguyen Huy Thiep was born in 1950 in the Thai Nguyen province northeast of Hanoi. At the age of ten he moved with his family to the capital. There he went to school and then to a college of education, completing his teacher’s exam in 1970. For ten years he worked as a village teacher in the mountainous region of the province of Tay Bac in the northwest of the country, where he lived a simple peasant life. Along with his historical studies, these experiences became the background for his literary works. From 1980 on he lived in a village near Hanoi that became suburbanized during the growth of the capital without losing its old structures. In his works the distance and tension between city and village lifestyles is a central theme. Intermediary characters often break into the rural milieu, which is characterized by traditions and superstitions. Afterwards there is a confrontation with the urban world, which usually appears as morally condemned and materialistic. These intermediaries may be village teachers, pupils, students, or poets, characters that embody some of the experiences of the author but also act as examples of different forms of intelligentsia. In addition to writing Thiep has worked as a potter, illustrator and painter and for years illustrated books for an educational publisher. To secure his livelihood, he has also worked as a salesman, office worker and restaurant owner.
When Thiep’s short story »The General Retires« was published in 1987, it caused a public scandal. Since then the story has been considered the foundation of a new direction of Vietnamese literature, which is connected with the »doi moi« movement, a policy of renewal that the party started in 1986 to encourage the country’s economic growth. The debate around Thiep’s text, which was at times quite aggressive, was about opening up towards new forms and current topics. Thiep experiments with narrative methods that are reminiscent of post-modern techniques. Unlike many of his colleagues, the traumatic experiences of war are not the subject of his work, rather he focuses his attention primarily on the recent development of Vietnam’s post-war society.
Thiep became famous through his short stories, but in addition he has published plays and literary criticism. He still has enemies in the party establishment, so that so far his novel »Tuoi 20 yeu dan« could only be published in France under the title »À nos vingt ans«. Nguyen Huy Thiep lives in Hanoi.