Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm | A Self Audit (162)

Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, the blogger, poet and translator, born 1971 in Phu Nhuan, Saigon, Vietnam. The pharmacist currently lives and works in Western Sydney, Australia.

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

What I’ve learned from attempting to try to build an index of author/artist bio was that it’s not easy work. The majority don’t want me to share their bio, perhaps it is their insecurity, or perhaps it is a security issue. I’ve translated close to 2000 works by so many authors, as it turns out known and not so well known, I have from the beginning been an outsider of the literary world in all capacity, reading the authors’ work void of their status. It has always been my simple intention to simply enjoy the poem or story, or art and photography for that matter.
Collecting the stats was extremely tedious. It feels like I’m invading their privacy. Even though my intention was purely to add a few details about the author to acknowledge their status, which in the end contradicts my initial intention, knowing someone’s status always makes you judge their work and introduce an invisible bias even before you read their work, their work, born from their heart and soul, their children.
I’ve only ever Googled poets for their poems to understand their style to better translate their poetry, their stories. But the last two days trying to write these bios, the information online was overwhelming. But, unfortunately, I did intentionally let the cat out of the bag.
Thắng, was kind enough to teach me how to write a proper bio, and that was cool. Only three of the sweetest poets sent me their details.
I obviously have both NVT and LVT bios since the majority of my translations are of their work. LMC short bio I happened upon by reading a recent poem published, besides being a very talented young poet, I know little about him(his handsome face as a fact has little to do with it).
HXS, TBK, and NLT, my affection for them is obvious, I wanted to write them up first. What I had learned about them on the world wide web in the last two days has only confirmed my instinct about them. They’ve always been kind to me, and constantly supportive of my endeavor to learn the Vietnamese vernacular, they are extremely accomplished yet managed to stay grounded void of an overinflated ego. They, like Thiện and Tài, have always encouraged my baby steps. There are more people who have supported me, and they know who they are, some I am no longer in contact with and it would be difficult to list them all here.
In truth, those who truly know me well know that I would never give a second thought about anyone’s status, may it be the Pope or the local homeless man who comes every two weeks to collect the empty recycle bottles we save for him. I will happily clean your toilets, to then after enjoying a few shots of Louis XIII. I know exactly who I am, overly sensitive beyond reason, but I respect you without any ounce of discrimination. My integrity is unmarred, but please, don’t mistake my respect for you as affection. There are boundaries I will never cross.
I love my family, and a handful of people I call my friends. I have little time for anything else.
I wish upon you always, peace within your heart and your home.
Because outside of that, most people, statistically, care for number one, and that is themselves. In my respect for you, I will listen, but only to the extent within the capacity, I can bear. I am not a free service for you to dump your problems and over-inflated egos. I am who I am, a registered pharmacist beyond that is half a century of life. I am not a translator, but I take literacy, and my translations seriously. Education and reading have no class, it should be free to all. Reading is a ticket to knowledge and a better life, and not simply in a materialistic sense, but also a spiritual one. Never mistake any of my actions as frivolity, I detest those who put others down to compliment and raise themselves up for my benefit.
My sincerity is unquestioned. I am surrounded by few who love me for exactly who I am and on the contrary an uncountable number of people who enjoy my generosity without an ounce of respect. The latter, I have zero tolerance.
June 2021

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

There's magic in translating a body of work from one language to another.

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