I helped Thai Ba Tan polish his English translations of this wonderful book: an impressionistic history of the ancient capital Hanoi told through the poetry of Hoang Quang Thuan. My "Co-Translator's Preface" reads, in part:
Hoang Quang Thuan opens a door to the past, welcoming his readers to a half-forgotten age of dragons and phoenixes, fairies and unicorns, gods and hero-kings. His poems, gathered in this book, exude a deep and genuine love for a "land of fairy caves among cloudy peaks" with sacred mountains, voluptuous caves and auspicious streams: the Great Viet now know as Vietnam.
With a keen eye and intuition akin to that of a feng shui master, Thuan describes and presents the unique personality and history of this land's beloved mountains, caves and bodies of precious water, placing particular emphasis on its caves: subterranean Fairylands where we encounter sleeping elephants, singing apes, a fallen drunk, a monk in perpetual meditation, an old man forever fishing, and others engrossed in a never-ending game of chess.
Thuan's feelings of love for, and pride in, this ancient place, this sacred land of the Viet people, is tinged with a sense of loss for the past glories of olden times: the pagodas, the temples, the sky-scraping towers, the sumptuous palaces where dazzling beauties once danced, the cloud-wrapped citadels and, above all, the capital, Hoa Lu, its flags flying bravely in the wind. Though he erases, through the sorcery of his words, a thousand years of history to show us what once was, the poet also reminds us, in verses imbued with a Buddhist feeling of impermanence, that many of the splendors that he celebrates now are gone or in ruins. However, he tells also of contemporary efforts to restore and rebuild the treasures of the past, expressing, ultimately, a feeling of optimism and renewal.
Vietnam Education Publishing House
[Nha Xuat Ban Giao Duc Viet Nam]/ 2010
Online ordering is not available.