The Perfume River: Writing From Vietnam
UWA Publishing, $32.95 pb, 320 pp
The Perfume River crosses the city of Hue, in the centre of Vietnam. Like tributaries that flow into the main body of water, this anthology of short stories and poetry crosses temporal and geographical boundaries, with Vietnam as the locus point. As editor Catherine Cole says in her introduction, ‘For all Vietnam has defined itself as a voice of inspiration, of homeland, memory and discovery’. The subtitle is not quite accurate, as it implies that all the creative pieces originate within the country, whereas the contributions come from various sources: from Vietnamese nationals living in the motherland, but also from second-generation Vietnamese contemplating home from afar, and from non-Vietnamese who nonetheless have an affinity with the land and its culture. With both insider and outsider perspectives, ‘writing of or about rather than from Vietnam’ might have been a more apt subtitle.