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A fragmentary novel You may be disturbed by fabulous stories and discrete patches of fates which are like a melancholy dream you could hardly recount fully after waking up.
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Journey Against The Sun

22 Tháng Mười 20154:35 CH(Xem: 15966)

Nguyen Mot-Journey Against The Sun-Cover-FinalTác giả: Nguyễn Một
Chuyển ngữ: Nguyễn Hoàng Phong & Phạm Viêm Phương
Amazon: $12.00

NXB Sống hân hạnh giới thiệu cuốn tiểu thuyết “Journey Against The Sun” của nhà Văn Nguyễn Một. Bản dịch của Nguyễn Hoàng Phong và Phạm Viêm Phương.

Tác giả gọi đây là cuốn “tiểu thuyết rời rạc” (A fragmentary novel), và cho là “có thể làm phiền bạn vì câu chuyện hoang đường và những mảnh chắp vá rời rạc của cuộc đời, như giấc mơ buồn mà sau khi tỉnh dậy bạn không thể kể lại một cách trọn vẹn.”

(You may be disturbed by fabulous stories and discrete patches of fates which are like a melancholy dream you could hardly recount fully after waking up.)

Còn theo nhà văn Sương Nguyệt Minh thì “giọng văn Nguyễn Một da diết, sâu lắng, có sức vang ngân. Dường như trong mỗi đoạn văn, câu văn đều trĩu nặng cái tình người viết. Và tôi thấy một nỗi buồn cao thượng, chứ không phải nỗi buồn thê lương, ủy mị trong tiểu thuyết “Ngược mặt trời”. Chạm đến nỗi buồn, đi tận cùng nỗi buồn – nỗi buồn của Nhà nhiếp ảnh Nguyễn Chạc cũng là nỗi buồn của nhân tình thế thái. Là nhà văn, mấy ai viết được nỗi buồn?!”

(The overall tone of the novel is dolorous, deep and resonant. Seemingly, each paragraph and each sentence contains the writer’s emotion, and I realize a sublime but not dreary sorrow in the novel. It touches and reaches the bottom of the sorrow of the photographer Nguyễn Chạc, which is also the sorrow of the mankind. Rarely is there a writer who can write successfully about sadness.)

Mong rằng cuốn tiểu thuyết tiếng Anh này sẽ được đón nhận trên khắp thế giới. Bạn có thể đặt mua trên Amazon, tại: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1518698492?keywords=Journey%20Against%20The%20Sun&qid=1445548806&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

(Bản gốc tiếng Việt: “Ngược Mặt Trời”, HNV xuất bản 2012)

FOREWORD

NGUYỄN MỘT MOVING AGAINST THE SUN

Sương Nguyệt Minh

In the literary circles, some writers were loyal to a style for 50 years; they even cultivate only one field of realism, yet their works are very fascinating. In the meantime, others, after five years, could only produced dull and uninspiring works, that is, their later works, to some extent, are the same as previous ones or are duplicated from others.

Some authors, on the other hand, neither follow old paths nor construct their own museum of literature no matter whether their works are fascinating or not. The concept that a writer, as a creator of the arts must not only be different from others and refuse to stand in any choir but also be novel to themselves is always a burning ambition and writing is always a miserable and weary profession. Nguyễn Một is such a writer who refuses to come back to old paths in order not to get calloused heels, and his Journey Against the Sun is an example.

What is a journey against the sun? I have perused this novel many times and tried to fathom out what Nguyễn Một intends to convey in this novel.

Is the journey against the sun a journey into the darkness of history and memories buried over time? How did Nguyễn Một discover and treat bygones and lost things?

Vietnamese seem familiar with the figure Pigneau de Béhaine “who was blamed for paving the way for French colonialist invasion of Vietnam” along with Nguyễn Ánh “who was blamed for asking foreign enemies to kill his countrymen.” With his “journey against the sun,” Nguyễn Một looked into the dark side of Father Bá Đa Lộc. In the novel, Bá Đa Lộc claimed that Nguyễn Ánh took advantage of the religion and himself to achieve his political ambition, and turned to persecute Christians after completion of his historical mission, “I believe that but for the edict of Gia Long, his descendants wouldn’t have persecuted our religion that harshly.” Bá Đa Lộc seemed to consider what he did as a part of his missionary work and refused to assume responsibility for helping French colonialists to invade Vietnam. It was until Mother Teresa put forth rights and benefits of Bá Đa Lộc when he was alive and after he was dead that “he sighed and silently turned his face to the darkness behind him”. Although he did not write much about Bá Đa Lộc, Nguyễn Một could expose the sooty part of the priest, whom many Vietnamese people had cursed for hundreds of years.

Journeying against the sun, Nguyễn Một set his foot on the dreary pitch-black history of Catholic persecutions under the reign of King Minh Mạng in which Governor Trần Hiệp was the most zealous and loyal cohort who massacred parishioners without mercy. Images, details, time, art of expressing misery and challenges of Catholic followers; and other characters such as Saint Matthew Lê Văn Gẫm, Father Mạc Danh Du who were martyred and beatified, were portrayed as the revelation of faith from the compassionate look of Nguyễn Một, making the history of Catholic persecutions in the feudal time less gloomy.

With his journey against the sun, Nguyễn Một took a trip back to the Kingdom of White Frangipani and interpreted its genocidal tragedy in its dark ages, “The Kingdom of White Frangipani had never enjoyed a stable political regime. Albeit many kings tried to reunify the country, they could not abolish racial discrimination; consequently, the country was split into numerous tribes and different villages, and they often caused unpreventable purge. The downfall of the country was inevitable… and thus there was no government in this land and the country fell onto the hand of neighboring countries without any invasion indeed. Therefore, the feud between two peoples was irrational.”

By hiding himself in the darkness to investigate concealed things, Nguyễn Một changed the setting by swiftly shifting from past to present time and crossing to the Northern neighboring country; he portrayed Chú Khách [or Uncle Khách, name given to any Chinese man by Vietnamese people in the early 20th century], a groceteria owner loving to make money and then becoming a hermit. Chú Khách, also Ah Hwa, was an expatriate Chinese who returned to his motherland yet soon got back to his residence in Vietnam for his obsession with the bloodshed on that horrific square.

Darkness of times and history lowered upon the country and of course upon the human fate as well, specifically, the photographer Nguyễn Chạc, who restlessly sought for lost nostalgic memories and the loving village of Chạc Chìu vanishing unexplainably off its mountainous surroundings. Attempts to find the village of Chạc Chìu, which was suspected to have been destroyed completely by wars, swept away by tornadoes, or buried during a mud slide, indeed reflect a desperate craving to retrieve memories, love, images of parents, Chìu, the lover’s grave on which a banana tree was planted, in order to mend and fill the emptiness of a solitary soul in modern time. In order to find lost things in a misty world, Nguyễn Một scoured his sorrowful past. His journey produced no specific results. Flying toward the sun was merely to see lost images reappearing vaguely and with distorted shapes and sizes; however, it timely sowed the seed of faith and hope in readers’ heart by a brilliant ending.

It is hard to say which artistic methods Nguyễn Một employed in his Journey Against the Sun. He called his novel a fragmentary one. How weird! He warned at the beginning of his book, “[Readers] may be disturbed by fabulous stories and discrete patches of fates which are like a melancholy dream you could hardly recount fully after waking up.” In fact, no matter how many times a reader with good generalizing and synthesizing skill would read this novel, he or she would barely retell it clearly and fully. I guess Nguyễn Một, the father of this novel, may have got tired and felt incapable of conveying patchy stories he himself intentionally made complicated and fragmentary. Unlike episodic novels of Qing and Ming Dynasties or fashionable techniques of free, non-stop and unstructured writing, Nguyễn Một developed 22 large and small items into a frame for “Journey against the Sun”. It is felt that such items were fragmented by miscellaneous stories and characters in different points of time and with no or loose bonds; yet indeed, they are tightly coherent in a both legendary and religious setting: Revelation of Faith, Revelation of Eucharistic Miracle, Revelation of Darkness, Revelation of Retribution, Passion and Faith… The novel’s chronotope was rather close to Catholicism, namely, the parish of Hòa Bình, the convent, the advent, and so forth; and many characters were Catholics, such as Mother Teresa, Matthew Lê Văn Gẫm, the enclosed nun Hoàng Lan. The spiritual setting blended with the mysterious and fictitious one (e.g. deserted ancient towers, golden pigs, the treasure beneath the deserted tower, tornadoes and the like) constitutes a ghostly and mysterious forest where Nguyễn Chạc play hide and seek for realities. The photographer Nguyễn Chạc was both the protagonist and the narrator in charge of connecting details. As for Nguyễn Một, he now joins the fate of his character then stays away to watch and illuminate his character who is looking for lost things.

It is not dreary to peruse “Journey against the Sun” because its language ceaselessly changes: swift, slow, harsh, soft, and gnawing. The fact that Nguyễn Một complicated the novel in order to get out of the monotonous simplicity generated a praiseworthy artistic effect. The novel comprises both realistic stories such as “Memories of Chạc Chìu”, “The Negative of Wild Ambition” and “Atheism”; and mythical world with “Other Eyes”, “Another World”, and “Souls of the Deserted Tower”. Characters are also anomalous: Chín Toàn was swept up in the sky and got blind after falling down, and he became a necromancer; Mother Teresa had mysterious dreams in which she conversed with Father Bá Đa Lộc; Nguyễn Chạc, while sleepwalking, heard dead young soldiers from both warring factions telling their stories and having a walk; or a girl who is a stillborn baby grew up like a ghostly figure.

Flexible changes in literary art of “Journey against the Sun” also reveal an ability to adopt and absorb multiple genres into one novel. While this item is like a short story, that one is a play concerning a legendary story about “The Black Bronze Statue” with Kha Ly and Đa Ra bearing the soul of the deserted tower; the other is a screenplay “The Rage of Deity of Mount Chúa” or a personal essay like “Memories of the River.” Fictional time ceaselessly reverses and spaces are always expanded and changed; readers seem to be overwhelmed by the fields of realism and a miraculous horizon of old and new characters or spooky ones.

The overall tone of the novel is dolorous, deep and resonant. Seemingly, each paragraph and each sentence contains the writer’s emotion, and I realize a sublime but not dreary sorrow in the novel. It touches and reaches the bottom of the sorrow of the photographer Nguyễn Chạc, which is also the sorrow of the mankind. Rarely is there a writer who can write successfully about sadness.

The journey against the sun is a new challenge; I think Nguyễn Một passed hardworking days to think up words. Now it is readers’ turn; and whether you can finish going through “Journey against the Sun” is a real challenge.

S.N.M

 

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