In “The General Retires,” “Without a King,” and “Crime and Punishment,” three short stories written between 1987 and 1990 by Nguyễn Huy Thiệp, the authoritative father figure is omnipresent. Whether an army dignitary, a modest bicycle repairer, or a humble farmer, these fathers all have difficult relationships with their children—relationships which, although not devoid of love or affection, suffer from grudges, conflict, and hate. These fathers call their sons cowards, set them against each other, and rape their daughters. But their death at the end of each story is systematic. The plots within the stories present the father as a species threatened with extinction and even likely to be assassinated by his own children. This paper on the literature at the beginning of the Renovation [Đổi Mới] offers a reading of the theme of patricide in the work of Nguyễn Huy Thiệp as an indication of profound ideological crisis and as a metaphor for the keen desire for change.

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