cover image Chinatown


Thuận, trans. from the Vietnamese by Nguyễn An Lý. New Directions, $16.95 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-0-8112-3188-6

Thuận, in her English-language debut, delivers a powerful examination of a woman’s remembering and forgetting. In 2004, an unnamed Vietnamese woman and her son are stuck on a train in Paris while the police investigate an abandoned duffel bag, which they assume contains a bomb. With her son asleep, the woman attempts to understand “the mystery to end all mysteries”: why her husband, Thụ y, left her almost 12 years earlier. In a gripping monologue, the woman recalls her childhood in Communist Hà Nộ i with her Sinophobic parents who hated Thụy for being half-Chinese; her five years spent studying English in Soviet Russia; and her move to Paris, where she abandoned her postgraduate degree and began teaching English. Comprised of a single, breathless paragraph interrupted only by the occasional excerpt from I’m Yellow, her novel in progress about a man who leaves his family, Thuận’s tightly coiled narrative paints a portrait of a woman desperately trying to make sense of her past (“You must forget in order to live,” she claims). As the woman’s thoughts spin round and round, Thuận draws the reader ever closer to the question at the core of the novel: Is it actually possible to forget in order to live? This heralds a remarkable new voice. (June)