Ho Bieu Chanh and the Early Development of the Vietnamese Novel

In this article Cao Thị Như-Quỳnh and I discuss the beginnings of the Vietnamese novel, a topic we also address in “From Verse Narrative to Novel: The Development of Prose Fiction in Vietnam” (1988) and which Thế Uyên and I take up in “The Novel Emerges in Cochinchina” (1993). This article focuses on Hồ Biểu Chánh, a southern writer, who wrote his first novel, Who Can Do It? [Ai làm được?], in 1912. We discuss this novel and also three other early works by Hồ Biểu Chánh: The Captain of the Golden Turtle [Chúa tàu Kim-Qui], The Bitterness of Life [Cay đắng mùi đời], and Awakening from a Dream [Tỉnh mộng]. We conclude by offering several reasons why Vietnamese literary critics and historians have not, until recently, recognized Hồ Biểu Chánh’s pioneering role in developing the Vietnamese novel.