BEYOND ILLUSIONS

Duong Thu Huong, Author, Nina McPherson, Translator, Phan Huy Duong, Translator , trans. from the Vietnamese by Nina McPherson and Phan Huy Duong. Hyperion East $23.95 (247p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6417-1

Vietnamese dissident Duong's first novel, now available for the first time in the U.S. (the writer's previously published books in English include Memories of a Pure Spring and Novel Without a Name), is an exposure of the corruption beneath the facade of postwar Vietnam. At the heart of the novel lies a triangle. Linh, a beautiful young woman, is married to her former professor, Nguyen. They live in relative comfort in Hanoi with their daughter, Huong Ly. Gradually Linh learns that Nguyen, who now works as a journalist, has become a mere hack for corrupt higher officials, lying on cue. In her revulsion, she separates from him. The book follows both Linh and Nguyen through Hanoi society after their breakup. Linh falls in love with a smooth-talking composer and artist, Tran Phuong, whose libidinal boldness disguises his fundamental timidity. He is married to Hoa, whose connections in the party support him; eventually, he even allows Hoa to berate Linh. Meanwhile Nguyen, who is disconcerted by his wife's desertion, has a brief affair with a promiscuous writer, Ngoc Minh. Her bohemian ways don't suit Nguyen, however. He drops his experiment of living with her just as he is assigned the task of spinning the news about an imprisoned cadre, Nguyen Thanh Hien, who has been accused of raping a series of women. He is also, Nguyen finds, in possession of probably illegal wealth, which he has used to bribe his way out of previous scrapes. Nguyen decides not to cover up Hien's crimes, but to expose him. The book does not, however, make Nguyen's redemption the excuse for reuniting the couple. Linh, like her author, is a woman who realizes that her fate is in her own hands. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/17/2001
Release date: 01/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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