Letters in Love and War

It was an intimate event in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh district last weekend where celebrated writers Vu Tu Nam and Thanh Huong launched their new book, an English language publication entitled Letters in Love and War, translated and edited by Metro Writers. The work is a translated collection of the love letters that the two writers exchanged as young journalists during the resistance wars of the last century, formerly released in Vietnamese as Hoi Uc Tinh Yeu. A matching re-release of the original Vietnamese edition was launched simultaneously.

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The authors—who recently celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary—wrote the letters during periods of frequent separation brought on by the war, beginning from their initial courtship and covering their early marriage and their time as parents of young children. Following the war era, both writers rose to prominence in Vietnamese literary society as published authors, with Thanh Huong serving as the Chief Editor of The Vietnam Women’s Newspaper and as Member Secretary of The Vietnam Journalists’ Association; and Vu Tu Nam becoming a Member of the Executive Board and General Secretary of the Vietnam Writers Association. In their youth, both worked and served on committees with Ho Chi Minh, and throughout their careers they associated with many outstanding heroes of their age, including the late General Vo Nguyen Giap. Vu Tu Nam became a household name following his works becoming adopted for study as part of the Vietnamese national school curriculum.

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The English edition of this work provides international readers with an insight into life and love against the backdrop of Vietnam’s wartime period, and is a testament to the power and endurance of loving relationships in troubled eras. The book was produced in Vietnam and published by Thanh Nien publishing house.

According to Michael Arnold, who edited the translation, “Vu Tu Nam and Thanh Huong lived through important and interesting times; they knew and met with Ho Chi Minh, they were involved in supporting key victories, and they continued to write for the people of Vietnam through the years that followed the wars. Still together and in love almost 70 years after exchanging their first letters, they still have much to teach new generations about the nature of war, struggle, and lifelong love.”

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The launch was attended by special guests and family—including their son, well-known artist Vu Huy; and their granddaughter, celebrity MC and supermodel Vu Ha Anh, who posed as her grandmother for the cover photo of both editions of the book. Hosting the event, Ha Anh led a number of close family members in reading from the letters, with her husband—British teacher Olly Dowden—reading from the English version. The couple were then interviewed on their recollections of the war era and their relationship during this period by Michael Arnold—who also questioned well-known American writer Lady Borton, who instigated the original publishing of these letters.

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Recalling that her grandparents had been too poor to afford wedding rings at the time they were married almost 70 years ago, Ha Anh surprised the blushing couple with the presentation of gold wedding bands to commemorate their inspiring love story.

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Poet and journalist Duong Ky Anh wrote, “Reading Letters in Love and War by Thanh Huong and Vu Tu Nam, it strikes me that there are few people who can successfully publish their own love letters. The more I read, the more I found that this book not only tells the love story of a couple, of a love between husband and wife, but also their heartfelt responsibility in raising children through the vicissitudes of that era of their life.”

Journalist Tran Bao Hung commented that, “It’s interesting that through the letters of these two famous writers, people of today can see parts of the work and lives of many different writers and poets during the war, such as Vu Cao [Vu Tu Nam’s brother], Nguyen Dinh Thi, Nguyen Tuan, Hoang Trung Thong, Nguyen Van Bong, Xuan Quynh, and Duong Thi Xuan Quy, among others.”

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In Vietnam, the English-language edition of the book is currently available at Artbook stores in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as well as by delivery online via Vu Ha Anh’s Facebook page. The Vietnamese re-release will also be available online and released in Phuong Nam book stores nationwide later this month. It is already available internationally on the Amazon CreateSpace service.