Quick Links: Happy Belated "Deep Resentment Day"

Ba Le by Night, photo by Phuong Nguyen

Forget eating fried chicken in Ho Chi Minh City, what about eating bánh mì in the Windy City? Chicagoans and hungry pilgrims from Wisconsin can now see and be seen eating their classic Vietnamese sandwich in the chic, shiny and shi shi new digs at Ba Le on 5014 N. Broadway (Red Line: Argyle stop). For Urbandaddy, pate, ham, headcheese, pork roll, mayonnaise, house pickle daikon & carrot, cilantro, jalapeno, onion, soy sauce, salt & pepper—all between a baked-from-scratch baguette—equals a lunch “masterpiece.” San Jose Viets may rightly beg to differ, and Brooklyn hipsters may have already moved onto the next new ethnic food thing, but damn I want my Ba Le combination special. Extra pah-TAY, please.


Matt Steinglass is “Reading Tim O’Brien in Hanoi” and is surprised to find that “almost none of the major American novels about the war are known to Vietnamese readers” who, after all, “just aren’t terribly interested in the war”; and while “when it comes to books, the old Communist machinery of censorship remains in place,” when it comes to movies, the new chain of modern multiplexes are treating their yawning masses to American-made flicks “one would never have expected to make it past the censors,” like, um, “Watchmen” and “Tropic Thunder.”


The novelization of Vietnam continues with the April 4 issue of the NYTBR, which features a pair of well-timed reviews of first novels—Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes and The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli. Vietnam is not a war, but a country, as the saying goes. What about Vietnam: The (Great American) Novel? If anything else, according to one book critic, “Vietnam still sells.”


Why does translation matter for Foreign Policy? Ask Edith Grossman, who argues: “The dearth of translated literature in the English-speaking world represents a new kind of iron curtain we have constructed around ourselves. We are choosing to block off access to the writing of a large and significant portion of the world, including movements and societies whose potentially dreadful political impact on us is made even more menacing by our general lack of familiarity with them. Our stubborn and willful ignorance could have–and arguably, already has had–dangerous consequences.” To help address this “crisis in translation,” Foreign Policy magazine launches their Translation Project, which includes this brief but harrowing piece on “a mother’s struggle with the legacy of Agent Orange, from a Vietnamese journalist’s account.”


Despite being attacked again by hackers this past January, Talawas continues unfazed towards its vision of creating a diasporic public sphere. The spring issue of its webzine takes a critical look back at the 1954-1975 war era in Vietnam through the multiple perspectives of twenty-five contributors. The webzine is just one of the multiple and innovative platforms maintained by Talawas, which also includes a blog, a literary digest, and an invaluable counter-archive of its 2001-2008 intervention. Now there’s a translation project!


Turn to your local PBS channel in order to watch “A Village Called Versailles,” S. Leo Chiang’s moving documentary about the rebuilding efforts of the Vietnamese community in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. You can read more about the film here and check your local listings here.


A third to a half of the 11,000 commercial fishermen impacted by BP’s catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill are Vietnamese, reports Brentin Mock, “yet BP and Coast Guard officials have done precious little to accommodate this community.” Monique Johnson picks up on the same story for the NYTimes and gives it more of a human interest emphasis; Johnson Nguyen, a fisherman interviewed in the video clip accompanying the article, doesn’t beat around the bush: “no more fish, no more shrimp, and they ain’t gonna make no more money, and they’re all gonna be unemployed.”


According to Andrew Lam, “Thai Civil War Can’t Be Won with Bullets and Tear Gas”: “Now that the army had moved into the protesters’ stronghold and mowed down those who resisted, it seems the battle is lost, and the war has only just begun.”


35 years later, Linh Dinh remembers the fall of Saigon while Phan Thanh Hao recalls its liberation. Linh Dinh writes: “Depending on which side you were on, Saigon either fell on April 30, 1975, or it was liberated. Inside Vietnam, the day is marked as Liberation Day — but outside, among the Vietnamese refugees, it is called Deep Resentment Day. (The resentment is not just over losing a war, but also a country.).” That Vietnamese refugees refer to April 30 as “Deep Resentment Day” is no factual truth, but it cuts straight to an emotional one.

Hai-Dang Phan

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  1. Well, I don’t know about B-52 carpet bombings as a comparison (!) or if truth is just a matter of perception — but yes, I agree with your more general point about the fragmented and fractious perspectives on the war and its legacy. I would qualify that, however, by saying that certain perspectives I think have hardened and calcified into ideology over time and have more weight or mass than others. I think this makes it all the more important to be critical of received ideas from all sides, especially the ones we are most comfortable and familiar with, and to try to blast through the layers of fixed ideas, to dig deeper. And that is indeed a struggle!

  2. Hell, everyone touches VN in a fragmentary fashion. Like B-52 carpet bombings, the VN discussion explodes in a million pieces, creating different size craters in different regions, different locales. Everyone think they are affected by it, no matter how far removed from the war – we love to create our own bombshell, believing in our own impact, our own importance.

    Afterall, truth is perception, reflecting from the mudpond created long ago by the impact of explosions reverberrated until today. In these craters (mudponds) of our leaking soul, rain water settled in, nourishing our own illusion of clarity, but we are still muddling in hell!

    “Deep Day of Resentment” or “National Day of Mourning” or “Vietnam is A Country Not a War” are all soundbites, speaking half truth because everyone still forgets that the struggle is not over and that a little learning is a dangerous thing.

  3. @Kinnic: We’ll call this my monthly random-ass roundup then.
    @Phi Phi N.:I suffer from short attention span when it comes to my reading on the screen too, so I sympathize with you.
    @Viet: Looking forward to yr review. I saw the book at Borders. It’s a doorstop!

  4. I also like this style of entry. Reminds me of Postbourgie.com’s weekly post called the Monday random-ass roundup. Keep it up!

  5. i have a review of karl marlantes’ matterhorn waiting in the publishing queue! and i like these announcements too. we want to publish the news! send diacritics the news!

  6. I really like this style of blog entry where I can quickly scan interesting literary/artistic/poppy Vietnamese related news items. It may be my short attention span, but I would love to see more posts like this.


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