New illustrations impart totally different look to two Vietnam’s classics
(VNF) - Illustrations by famous contemporary painters have given a totally different look to two classics in Vietnamese literature. The Dong A Book Company has republished Kieu’s Tale by Nguyen Du (1766–1820) and Luc Van Tien’s Tale by Nguyen Dinh Chieu (1822 – 1888) with new paintings being used to illustrate the epics.
Thuy Kieu and Thuy Van by Dang Tien.
The new paintings were put on display and later auctioned in Hanoi for a total of VND 410 million (USD 20,000).
The illustrations for the “Tale of Kieu” were sold at prices from VND 7.2 million to VND 65 million (USD 316 to USD 2,800). The illustration Doan Vien (Reunion) by Thanh Chuong fetched the highest price at VND 65 million (USD 3,000), while “Thuy Kieu and Thuc Sinh” by painter Dinh Quan was the next highly valued at a price of VND 45 million (USD 1,980). Likewise, the collection of illustrations for “the Tale of Luc Van Tien” by painter Nguyen Cong Hoan was sold at a price of VND 48 million (USD 2,100).
Kieu’s Tale is considered the most famous work in Vietnamese literature. The story about the travails in the life of the beautiful and talented Thuy Kieu has been translated into many languages.
The tale is regarded as the most significant poem in Vietnamese literature. It was composed in luc-bat (6-8) stanzas and its original title in Vietnamese is Doan Truong Tan Thanh (A new cry from a broken heart). However, it is better known as Truyen Kieu (Kieu’s Tale) or Kim Van Kieu.
The story is based on a 17th century Ming Chinese novel, which Nguyen Du discovered while he was on an ambassadorial mission to China in 1813. The plot portrays the chaotic political and social circumstances of Vietnam in the 18th century, arising from political infighting. It recounts the life and trials of a beautiful and talented young woman who sacrificed her happiness to save her disgraced family. She had to go through many sufferings, such as being lured into prostitution, being wed to a man who was already married, and being thrown out of a Buddhist sanctuary before she was finally reunited with her first love. However, this reunion did not bring earthly joy for Kieu, who chose to devote her life to serving her family as filial piety demanded.
Thuy Kieu and Thuc Sinh by Dinh Quan.
The story of Luc Van Tien, an epic poem written in nom (the old Chinese-based Vietnamese script) by famous poet Nguyen Dinh Chieu in the 19th century, is a work where the talent, intelligence and dignity of the two main protagonists, Tien and Kieu Nguyet Nga are met with hostility from society at large. The poem praises the power of true love, applauds bravery and fair justice.
Acting on a suggestion from the Dong A Company, nationally renowned painter Thanh Chuong gathered several peers to join the project.
“Illustrating a masterpiece is a challenge as well as an exciting experience that the artists, whose passion adds colour to the literature, have never had before,” Chuong said.
“With illustrations created by contemporary artists, we want to bring the works closer to modern readers,” he said.“To preserve our heritage and old values, we can’t just protect the original works, we should also renew them, making them suitable to present life.”
Chuong noted that the illustrations were very different from those in previous publications. Works were chosen from 15 artists nationwide, capturing the persity of Vietnamese contemporary fine arts. Veteran artists like Phan Cam Thuong, Ha Tri Hieu, Nguyen Quan and Nguyen Cong Hoan have contributed their illustrations to the book.
The classics are available at bookshops nationwide for VND 250,000 (USD 12)./.