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It's always been the same: good fortune seldom came the way of those endowed, they say, with genius and a dainty face. What tragedies take place within each circling space of years! 'Rich in good looks' appears to mean poor luck and tears of woe; which may sound strange, I know, but is not really so, I swear, since Heaven everywhere seems jealous of the fair of face. The tale of Kieu, a talented young girl, was written in verse in Vietnamese by Nguyen Du, who lived in Vietnam from 1765 to 1820. Although the story is set in China, it was the greatest work of literature until then to be written in the Vietnamese language, and many would say it is still unrivalled. It tells the story of Kieu, a beautiful girl, who falls in love with Kim, a handsome student, and they become engaged. But while Kim is away, Kieu's father is arrested on a false charge, and Kieu follows the Confucian teaching that duty to one's parents overrides all other duties, and gives herself to be sold as a bride to a stranger. Her life continues with terrible suffering alternating with periods of relative happiness, but always she dreams of Kim. But eventually they are reunited and there is a happy ending. Michael Counsell lived as a civilian in Vietnam for almost four years during the Vietnam War. He read the tale of Kieu, and was deeply moved by the human drama and the descriptions of nature. It seemed to symbolise the suffering which the Vietnamese people, and especially Vietnamese women, endured during the twentieth century. Among the many misunderstandings of the Vietnamese people by the English-speaking world in our days, he says, we must include the failure to understand that they are a nation of poets and heirs to a great culture. So to make this story more widely known, he started to translate the poem into English. This was probably the first and may still be the only translation made by a native speaker of English directly from the Vietnamese into English verse using the same scansion and rhyme-scheme as the original. Michael visited Hanoi in 1994, and was again struck by the beauty of the scenery and the friendliness of the people. His translation of Kieu was published in a bilingual edition, with beautiful illustrations, by the ThAc Gioi Publishers. But it has proved difficult to buy that edition outside Vietnam, so in order that many more people should be able to enjoy it, the English text only is now published by Createspace, a branch of amazon, and also aas an e-book on Kindle. Michael Counsell is now living in Birmingham in England. His dream is that eventually, like Edward Fitzgerald's translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, his translation of Kieu may prove as popular among English-speakers as with those who can read the original. Janet Marshall writes: Kieu is not a love story in the romantic, light-hearted sense. But it expresses not only the profound and lasting love between Kieu and Kim, but also their patience and endurance through years of cruel, undeserved trials. Yet even through the darkest parts of the poem, the reader has hope of the triumph of goodness over evil, and that Kuan-Yin will eventually bring about a happy ending. All the characters are delicately drawn, and bring a Far Eastern culture, with its modes and manners, vividly to life. So many stories from far-away lands lose much of their fascination and genuine warmth and believability in translation. It is not so in this instance. Michael Counsell, with a true understanding for, and sympathy with the Vietnamese traditions, has brought before the English reader a literary experience of extraordinary beauty.The tale of Kieu, a talented young girl, was written in verse in Vietnamese by Nguyen Du, who lived in Vietnam from 1765 to 1820.

Author:Nguyen Du
Publisher:Createspace Independent Pub - 2013-03-09


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