Poet Nguyen Quang Thieu: Great cultural values are at stake
“Profound works about the countryside are a warning about the imbalance in life,” poet Nguyen Quang Thieu, chairman of the Vietnamese Writers’ Association, said in an interview with VietNamNet.
“We, either citizens or rural dwellers, are tempted by materials. Profound works about the countryside are a warning about the imbalance in life. This warning is very important to the planners of the country’s development. The great values of the spirit of life and culture are at stake,” said Thieu.
Poet Nguyen Quang Thieu, chairman of the Vietnamese Writers’ Association
- Life of people in the countryside has been written about by the most renowned authors like Nam Cao, Kim Lan, Nguyen Khac Truong, Ma Van Khang, Binh Nguyen Loc, Nguyen Quang Sang and then Do Bich Thuy, Do Tien Thuy, Ngo Phan Luu, Nguyen Ngoc Tu, etc. However, the theme of the rural life has been waning, particularly in the category of short stories. In your opinion, what are the reasons for this phenomenon?
Those aforementioned writers on the theme of rural life have marked significant milestones in general literature and literature about the countryside. To Nam Cao, Kim Lan, Nguyen Binh Loc, etc, the rural life at that time was their life. To later writers such as Nguyen Ngoc Tu or Do Bich Thuy, rural life is something that they have memories about.
But now, rural areas are being modernized, thereby bearing a different meaning, a different spirit. The contrast between the countryside and cities are less stark. Moreover, rural issues are not always the concern of the whole society, not to mention writers.
If we observe what is happening on social networks in the late 10 years, we’ll see that people have been engrossed in hundreds of trendy things, concerning personal trivia and nonsense and meaningless ideas. This is even for so-called “writers”. These are some of the basic reasons why writing about the countryside is becoming less appealing and unconnected to the main theme.
- Some people think that rural areas have changed in recent years. The process of urbanization is happening so fast that young people do not find the countryside familiar and attractive anymore, so they gradually stop writing about it. What do you think about this idea?
Your question includes an answer itself. Another important thing is that the unspoilt nature and the typical cultural features of the countryside have been disappearing. It is hard to come across old villages and typical villagers. Many children who were born and raised in a rural area are living a semi-city life.
They no longer have the chance to sink into captivating, dazzling and romantic nature. The countryside is no longer a source of kids’ endless inspiration and they grow up with a hole in the memory of their homeland. Therefore, it is understandable why younger generations are not able to go further in writing about the countryside.
It is not true to say that the theme of the countryside is no longer an inspiration or a source for poems and stories. The fact that the countryside has been changing is also a topic itself. Young writers who do not desperately desire to write about this theme are the ones who have not yet realized the extreme cultural disruption in the countryside. They are busy with the fast pace of city life. It is fundamental for them to understand that writing about the countryside means writing about sustainable traditional values being at stake, rather than about superficial social stories.
- In your opinion, how have writings about the countryside during integration or even stories about the writers’ family and themselves influenced their spiritual life?
We, either citizens or rural dwellers, are tempted by materials. Profound works about the countryside are a warning about imbalance in life.
It is not only an imbalance in the living environment and conditions but also the culture and, on a broader scale, the origins. This warning is very important to the planners of the country’s development and it has dawned on people that the great values of the spirit of life and culture are at stake.
- From your point of view, what are "hot" special issues about the countryside during integration that need to be included in literary works or in short stories?
It is the disruption or, to be exact, the destruction of nature. When a distinctive natural environment is destroyed, its cultural environment will be too. The protection of nature is a great and urgent problem for the whole world. It is a disruption of the structure of family relationships, lineages, and larger community. On a broader scale, it is the disruption of the traditional cultural structure. The connection between people and people in Vietnamese traditional culture is a special connection and is what makes its people marvelously strong. And now, if that connection is broken, the basic elements that make up the identity of Vietnam will disappear too.
Writers' association president pays attention to children's literature
Nguyen Quang Thieu was elected president of the Vietnam Writers' Association at the 10th conference held last month.