Translator's notes

The Story of Kiều (Đoạn Trường Tân Thanh)

By Nguyễn Du

As part of my work for an international aid agency, I was first sent to Vietnam in November 1999, to report on community-based development projects in the poorest parts of the country. At the time, I had never even heard of The Story of Kiều, nor of its author, Nguyễn Du. But wherever I travelled – to a women’s support group in the Mekong delta, or to a health clinic in the paddy fields outside Danang, or to an HIV/AIDS project in the slums of Saigon – I found people keen to tell me about this 200-year-old poem. I picked up a bilingual edition on the streets of Hanoi and was instantly hooked. For all its origins in 16th-century China (the Vietnamese original is itself a reworking of a second-rate Chinese historical novel), the story of Kiều is widely regarded as the ongoing story of Vietnam. The resilience and ingenuity of its eponymous heroine continue to resonate with a nation that has had to survive many centuries of conflict and oppression. In reworking the tale into modern English, my aim has been to bring the power and passion of Nguyễn Du’s work before a wider audience.

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