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.
Bad Fathers: The Patricide Theme in Three Short Stories by Nguyễn Huy Thiệp (1987–1990)
Doan Cam Thi is Assistant Professor at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO, Paris). She is a recipient of the “Golden Word of Translation” Award (French Society of Translators) and director of the “Contemporary Vietnamese Literature” collection at Editions Riveneuve, Paris. She has published Poétique de la mobilité (Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2000), Écrire le Vietnam contemporain. Guerre, corps, littérature (Paris, Presses de l’Université Paris Sorbonne, 2010), Đọc “tôi” bên bến lạ [Writing the Self in Contemporary Vietnamese Literature] (Hà Nội, Hội nhà văn and Nhã Nam, 2016) and Un moi sans masque. L’Autobiographie au Vietnam, 1887–1945 (Paris, Riveneuve, 2018).
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Doan Cam Thi; Bad Fathers: The Patricide Theme in Three Short Stories by Nguyễn Huy Thiệp (1987–1990). Journal of Vietnamese Studies 1 February 2019; 14 (1): 60–86. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/vs.2019.14.1.60
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