Phan Nhiên Hạo | Fish in a well (8)

a translation for my father

Phan Nhiên Hạo is a Vietnamese-American poet and translator, living in the United States. He was born in Kontum, Vietnam, came to the US in 1991 and now lives in Illinois.

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

By Phan Nhiên Hạo, translation by Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

Fish in a well

When we were young, my younger cousin 

would catch perch, fry them till their skin were nice and crisp

the fish spared were dropped into a well,

the water was muddy and not very deep,

he said, “These are the lucky ones.”

But day in and day out 

they’re pushed around 

shoved down by an iron bucket,

I know this is hell on earth for those 

who had survived.

It was a time when my uncle was gasping for air in a re-education camp.

May 2022


Cá trong giếng

Khi còn nhỏ em họ tôi

câu cá rô, chiên giòn

còn vài con thả giếng,

nước đục và không sâu,

nó nói, “Đây là những con cá may mắn.”

Nhưng mỗi ngày 

hàng chục lần gàu sắt

giáng xuống,

tôi biết đây là địa ngục trần gian

của những kẻ sống sót.

Thời gian đó chú tôi đang ngáp ngáp trong trại cải tạo.


Source: Radio mùa hè

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

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

7 replies on “Phan Nhiên Hạo | Fish in a well (8)”

I cried after I had finished translating it, my father was in redaction camp for 4 years.. It really surprised me, the trauma, it just comes and goes very unexpectedly.. But, I’m glad I’ve found blogging.. Today is a good day, my son had just scored a psychology internship, hopefully he can fix his crazy mother. 🙂

Liked by 1 person

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