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Pham Thi Hoai

Pham Thi Hoai, now a resident of Berlin, writes about her Vietnamese homeland with a sardonic yet affectionate eye. While not overtly political, these short stories explore every-day life in a restricted society that is opening slowly and selectively. Sunday Menu is full of observations that, without preaching, flag the complexities of modern, modernising Vietnam. For example, regarding a group of locals touting for tourist dollars on a beach, the narrator in ‘The Toll of the Sea’ writes: ‘My heart fell heavy as I saw in each of them a former teacher now looking for a better income.’ Such asides represent a challenging form of dissent. As translator Ton That Quynh Du writes in his helpfully contextual afterword,: ‘her detractors have charged her with holding an “excessively pessimistic view” of Vietnam, of abusing the “sacred mission of a writer” and even of “salacious writing”.’

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