Sunday, December 18, 2005

Fallen Soldiers' Diaries Stir Up Vietnam

Two patriotic wartime diaries by a college student and doctor sell 380,000 copies in a few weeks

Ohmynews 5 Sept. 2005

When author Dang Vuong Hung brought his manuscript of Mai Mai Tuoi 20 (Forever 20 Years of Age) to Thanh Nien Publishing House, its director hesitated to print it, saying the book would meet the same fate of obscurity as other wartime diaries published before.

Hung, who reworked the Vietnam War-era diary of fallen soldier Nguyen Van Thac, tried to persuade the publisher that the work is a precious record which can impart many valuable lessons to the nation's modern youth.

But Hung and Thanh Nien Publishing House never imagined the great success Mai Mai Tuoi 20 has become, both in terms of sales and the impression it has made on the country. Over 380,000 copies have been sold, creating a "wave of patriotism" among readers, especially the young.

Nguyen Thanh Trung, 21, a student of economics said the book "helps me understand how tough the war was and the difficulties that the soldiers had to face. It also makes me think about myself and the way I live."

In Mai Mai Tuoi 20, Thac recorded his daily life in the war, his love for his girlfriend and his feelings and devotion towards his nation. Before becoming a soldier, Thac won first prize in the North Viet Nam Literary Writing Contest in 1970 for high school students. The young and ambitious man left college as a freshman for the front.

Another wartime diary by another doctor-cum-fallen solder, Dang Thuy Tram, titled Nhat ky Dang Thuy Trang (Dang Thuy Tram's Diary) has also caught the public's attention, as well as high-ranking government official
Le Kha Phieu, former General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam, said:

"The examples of Dang Thuy Tram and Nguyen Van Thac are vivid images of a generation fighting to defend the independence, sovereignty and unification of the homeland. I think the examples set by these two war martyrs should be learnt by the current young generation."

In her diary, Tram wrote to her sister: "Nowhere else can the true value of man be seen as clearly than on the battle fields of the South at this time, where I will do many useful things ... to bring light to disabled people, to bring the joy and a little knowledge I have learnt all these 15 years under the roof of the socialist school. In hardship, I will find true happiness."

A hospital for the poor and miserable will be built soon in Quang Ngai--- the land on which she fought during the war. Tram's wish is now fulfilled by the financial donations from kind-hearted people nationwide who have been struck by what Tram sacrificed in wartime. A fund also called "Forever 20 Years of Age" has recently been set up to support young who excel in their studies and social activities.

The young doctor's diary is scheduled to be translated into Korean, Japanese and English.

Writing diaries during the Vietnam War was a common way to express the feelings of many soldiers. "There are many diaries left and kept by martyr's relatives. That is a valuable source to stir the patriotism and raison d'etre of youth," author Hung said.

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