Sunday, October 30, 2011

For January: The Eaves of Heaven by Andrew X. Pham

For January, we have selected The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars, by Andrew X. Pham. A few years back, we read and greatly enjoyed Pham's Catfish and Mandala and I am looking forward to reading this critically-acclaimed book about his father,
Once wealthy landowners, Thong Van Pham’s family was shattered by the tumultuous events of the twentieth century: the French occupation of Indochina, the Japanese invasion during World War II, and the Vietnam War. Told in dazzling chapters that alternate between events in the past and those closer to the present, The Eaves of Heaven brilliantly re-creates the trials of everyday life in Vietnam as endured by one man, from the fall of Hanoi and the collapse of French colonialism to the frenzied evacuation of Saigon. Pham offers a rare portal into a lost world as he chronicles Thong Van Pham’s heartbreaks, triumphs, and bizarre reversals of fortune, whether as a South Vietnamese soldier pinned down by enemy fire, a prisoner of the North Vietnamese under brutal interrogation, or a refugee desperately trying to escape Vietnam after the last American helicopter has abandoned Saigon. This is the story of a man caught in the maelstrom of twentieth-century politics, a gripping memoir told with the urgency of a wartime dispatch by a writer of surpassing talent.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Our October Author: Kim Young-ha

This month we are reading Your Republic Is Calling You by the  South Korean novelist Kim Young-ha. The author has a website with biographical information and an overview of his other books and a Facebook page which offers a few links to interviews and events. Interviews and material in English are a little scarce, but there is this PEN American Center panel appearance--you may want to start around the 37 minute mark for where Kim comes in:

For the nickel summary of this panel check out this blog post from 3%.

Much of the material from this interview in the Beijinger deals with works other than Republic, but there are some interesting insights, like this:
Between a widespread diaspora and the division of North and South, Korean identity is wrought with questions of nation, race, belonging ... how much does this background influence your desire to write, and your choices for the topics of each book?When I was a child, my father was an army officer. My family had to live near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), where I was always hearing the North Korean propaganda speeches. That experience made me think a bit about strange themes like border, nation, prohibition, death, belief and so on. Growing up near the DMZ, one of the most dangerous areas in the world, is quite a rare experience. I think my childhood was the most crucial thing for my ability to write novels. Your Republic Is Calling You, my fourth novel, is the story about a forgotten North Korean spy. It is not just a coincidence that I pick this kind of 'borderline' character. He lives half his life in the North and the other half in the South. I have always felt myself standing on that border.
A few more nuggets might be gleaned from this KBS interview.
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