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Two Chapters from the Book "Vo Phien and the Sadness of Exile"
This is not an article but rather two chapters from a book, Vo Phien and the Sadness of Exile, which describes the life and work of the Vietnamese writer Vo Phien. Born in 1925 in central Vietnam, Vo Phien joined the anti-French revolutionary movement in 1945 but later, having become disenchanted with communism, worked in the Ministry of Information for the Republic of Vietnam, first in his native Binh Dinh Province and later in Saigon. Chapter 1, “The Man from Binh Dinh,” provides an overview of his life and explains how he became an important writer in the South during the second Indochina war and then, after he came to the U.S. in 1975, one of the most respected literary figures in the Vietnamese refugee community. Chapter 5, “An Exile in His Own Country,” describes stories and essays in which Vo Phien mourns the physical and spiritual destruction of his native region which was a scene of violent fighting during both the first and second Indochina wars. Unable to return to his home region, disenchanted with the coldness of city life, Vo Phien experienced the sadness of exile in Saigon before he experienced it in more intense form in the U.S. Other chapters (not included here) describe essays and stories in which he expresses distaste for many aspects of American life. I argue, however, that what he objects to is not American life specifically but modern life in general.