By Lựu Lê

ISBN-10: 155849085X

ISBN-13: 9781558490857

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He yelled to his wife, but when he finished speaking, a spark of light flared up on the other side of the divan. His father had been sitting there all along. Khang's hand quavered as he lifted the oil lamp's glass bulb, scraped the creosote off the tip of the wick, readjusted it, applied the fire at the end of a bamboo splinter to the wick, put the bulb back and then rubbed out the fire at the end of the bamboo stick. He did all this in a deft but deliberate manner, as a substitute for thinking of something to say to his son.

New skills come into play when he convenes an "organizing committee'' and devises a quasi-military strategy enabling it to complete arrangements for his marriage to Chau. This attempt at social mobility provides the novel with its central theme. Banking on the power of food as a social currency, Tinh takes pride in the array of spices found in his kitchen and imagines that the gulf between Sai and his second wife can be negotiated through a welcoming banquet for the bride ("Even a Hanoi feast would not have been better").

For sure! " exclaims Sai's companion, the Province Vice Director of the Bureau of Agriculture. The experiment yields a bounty for Ha Vi, where, at the end of the novel, "the sound of earth being scooped into barrels and of wood being hammered" is heard around the clock. " These enterprises are portrayed as emblems of hope rather than as "satanic mills," and when Sai stops to ''exchange pleasantries" with the night shift, readers do not see the workers he employs. The Vietnam wars of 194575 set the world economic system, with its requirement that poor societies occupy the periphery, against the desire of the Vietnamese people for a better life, based on full control over their own labor and resources.

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A time far past by Lựu Lê


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