"The Collective and the Individual in Two Post-War Vietnamese Novels"

In the late 1980s, when Vietnam's renovation policy loosened restrictions on writers, novels emerged that described the characters' private dreams and fears in much greater detail than had been done before. Two of these more inward-looking novels are analyzed here: Le Luu's A Time Far Past (Thoi xa vang) and Tran Manh Hao's Separation (Ly than). Both novels argue that limits should be placed on "collective concern" and that individuals should have more say in the choice of marriage partners and in other aspects of their lives. The article relates this argument to current issues and to past literary debates, and it considers how life and literature in Vietnam might change if collective concern becomes severely weakened.