Book chapter

The Vietnamese Land Reform Program as Literary Theme

In this article I first describe the land reform program which took place in North Vietnam from 1953 to 1956. Then I explain how it became a literary theme in some novels published three or four decades later. Because it led to excesses, including the assassination of landowners, it was a taboo topic until the Hanoi leadership launched a reform program called Renovation (đổi mới) in 1986. Along with economic reforms designed to move the country toward a market economy, Renovation brought with it more freedom for writers. Taking advantage of these new freedoms, some writers wrote novels featuring characters strongly affected by this program. I discuss three of these novels. I conclude by suggesting some reasons why, decades after it occurred, the land reform program still casts a shadow over contemporary literary and political life in Vietnam.