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SHORT STORIES/TRUYỆN NGẮN

Nguyễn Văn Thiện | A PORTRAIT OF THE TRUTH – CHÂN DUNG SỰ THẬT (8)

The original translation completed in November and posted on Facebook on November 5th, 2016. It has been an incredible journey since then. My universe has expanded exponentially.

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Trần Băng Khuê | The Hues of My Youth (8)

It all began with a top. That’s right, my youth was an idyllic entanglement? No, more perhaps glimpses of the back of a blue top departing a train station draped in a misty downpour that had swept across Saigon years ago.

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Lê Vĩnh Tài | THE WORDS IN GOLD (278)

When I left after your stories, the sea was completely placid. It was nothing but a red reflection due to the dull greyish boats’ headlights. A glare here and there from the water was just enough for me to work out the shape of a person.

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Nguyễn Văn Thiện | Bird Wings at the bottom of the Lake (49)

The sunlight was like fire through the cloud of bazan red dust. I ran after him shouting: “Men, come home as soon as you can!”. Men’s answer was a slurry of words whisked away by the wind. The bike, a red dot slowly fading away, disappeared into the emptiness of the mead. Nothing was left but the echo of the engine bouncing back from the surface of the silent lake. Đá Lake crystal clear during the dry season, imprinted clearly the form of a flock of birds with their wingspan stretching out far and wide, endlessly flying across the lake.

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Lê Vĩnh Tài | THE STORM IN EACH ONE OF US – MƯA TRONG MỖI CHÚNG TA (3)

When he prays for the words, some whine, some wail, and some whimper in silence because they know. And in despair. The words are like endless drops of a storm beating down on each one of us, acting on a curse — an odd three hundred years.

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Lê Vĩnh Tài | THE EVIDENCE (262)

The lady is fully aware, the gentleman is very liberal in bed at the moment with a dog.

Nàng biết, chàng và con chó đang chơi trò tự do trên giường.

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Nguyễn Văn Thiện | BURYING NAUGHT (14)

the neighbours rushed over to watch like they were watching someone having a fit. Sheepishly I laughed like I did something wrong: “I must bury this body!”. They broke out in laughter: “There’s nobody, what body?”. They couldn’t see the sizeable dead body nor the white skeleton lying in the middle of the yard. My next-door neighbour looks at me full of compassion: “Yeah, quickly bury it, before it deteriorates!”. Then he scoffed loudly and left.

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Trần Băng Khuê | Reconciliation (7)

It has been an incredible journey translating this master piece by Trần Băng Khuê. It has been my privilege.

“Những vệt máu đã khô trên mấy ngón tay. Chúng tan hoà vào nhau thành một thứ hình thù kì dị mang tên tội lỗi.”

“The blood had dried on my fingers. They merged together oddly into an appellation of blasphemy.”

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Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm | Notes of April (103)

My ears were full of chicken pox, a gregarious pale skin nine-year-old boy, a head full of curls lined up in my stead. The nurse couldn’t tell us apart, the little lies that made up my life. The last health inspection before boarding Thai Airways for Sydney. Panatnikom refugee camp was a huge metropolis of […]

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Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm |”forty days and forty nights” (95)

“Who taught thee how to make me love thee more,
The more I hear and see just cause of hate?”

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Nguyễn Văn Thiện | April (48)

April begins with the tired hearts learning how to spell happiness. The passing rain in dreamy sketches of the mountains and rivers, the image of a familiar yet unfamiliar face, not of yesterday nor exactly the face of tomorrow. In the minutes upon the sunrise the change of heart, upon the return of the wind, there were such turns of events.

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Trần Băng Khuê | The Vows (6)

The moon was bright red. My fingers in the dirt. The lumps of soft earth broke away, revealing a tongue that has disintegrated, turned black. My useless tongue. The tongue that could not keep its word. Then suddenly there it was, I discovered another tongue by it. It was tarried by the soil, but it was still clear that it was still fresh, its flesh damp with blood. I was very confused, for sure I had never buried such a tongue. Who’s tongue is this? Where did it come from? Why would anyone want to cut their tongue off and bury it as I did?

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Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm | Just This Life (88)

His eyes glossed over white, icy, opaque. The stranger, the father of my thirteen year old daughter. I had begged him- please forget her, I forgive you. He just laughed, the light never reaching his eyes- she, to you is the mother of my child. I had loved him, the love of my life. He had picked me to dance, me the awkward skinny girl, amidst all those tall pretty ones.

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Nguyễn Văn Thiện | WAITING FOR THEM (47)

A couple of times I would wake up in the middle of the night, but this time I found a stranger next to me. “Can I stay here with you” – the stranger would quietly plead – “there’s no other shrub left!”. I asked: “Where are you from?”. “From the village” – the stranger replied, a little less shy. It was a girl, her voice crisp, kind and sweet. Naturally, as a reflex action I would have stood up straight away, but after so many days either laying down or on my knees, my feet were like jelly, all wobbly. I could not rise further than my knees, my arms raised in front of me, not sure why. The young woman grabbed my hands, her hands soft, gently pulled me down. “Sit” – she said quietly – “they’re nearly here!”. The scent of the young woman overwhelmed my tiny familiar grove of trees. My fears were somewhat suddenly lighter. Perhaps they will come. The four hands held onto each other, locked on tighter onto each other. We stared into each other’s eyes for a moment, as though it was a preordained meeting, two pairs of teardrops rolled slowly down the two pairs of cheeks to shatter upon two pairs of youthful knees. We grabbed onto each other, groaning in the deep darkness of trees.

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Lê Vĩnh Tài | THE WATCH – CHIẾC ĐỒNG HỒ (176)

How did you feel when she gave you the watch on your birthday?

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Nguyễn Văn Thiện | Not my words (46)

No longer participating in any kind of social gathering and exchange, I am often alone looking out at the mead. Completely speechless, wordless, unless another person was nearby, and it is their words that would come out of my mouth. I had in submission surrendered my lips to the people around me, while I sat and waited, to see who would be the next person. Who will pass by with talk of nothing void of a beginning nor an end? I was watchful, as though for a burglar. And of course without warning, a stranger said: “Demons meet up there on the third floor, right next to the writer’s headquarters”.

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Nguyễn Văn Thiện | Lone Wolf (45)

Day after day, life continues at a rapid pace, always in a rush, where people leave to seemingly never return. There are the lonely nights, the mead in disarray due to some bloody war, the thrashing of endless living, the heartbreaking screams, the gratifying splattered blood and flesh across the horizon. In the end, as the sun rises, all is back in its place as it were, any evidence erased by the wind. Where we now live, is the residence of the night, of the conspiracy to harm, of the lurking agreements and handshakes in the dark. Hence, now and then the wind howls in bitterness, now and then, the clouds weave such laden pitiful images, and the flowers, the wild daisies silently carry their pain upon a patch of meadow bleached white in snow.

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Lê Vĩnh Tài | CIGARETTE SMOKE – KHÓI THUỐC LÁ (217)

In the darkness she sat up, left the bed. The mosquito and he too was drawn towards her. Even with his eyes closed, he could still see the older man and her together, when not once did her footsteps make a sound. He accepts one must be responsible for one’s action, but why does the older man need to scrutinise everything for three-generations, so much heartache.
“I don’t want everyone to end up like this, how can anyone survive?” she spoke up in the end, in shortness of breath.
Like smoke would dissipate in the air.
As though it has never existed.

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Nguyễn Văn Thiện | A THOUSAND TIMES NUMBER SEVEN (10)

I rounded up seven rainstorms on Mount Chư Mang, layered them like an apocalyptic tsunami, did you see my love, would it be so hard to believe? The storm at the very end was of an age in shorts oxen herding, stealing potato roots smearing mud chewing wiping sludge off our eyes beneath the rain. The torrent a top achingly cold came solo from afar, heard the water seeping into bone pitied the tiny innocent heart, with all his paths leading into a barren desert. Placed above is the rain from a blistering land of sandstorms sweeping away the old trees. Then above an unexpected storm on the path to a nervous breakdown during that search for fun, in the half-light the four walls of the mountain pale white, chilling, lucky though, still in my hands the warmth of another.

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Lê Vĩnh Tài | THE BODY PART FACTORY (132)

The male sales assistant smiled: “Yes, my wife’s also itchy when she borrowed her little sister’s legs, busted the veins on her legs opening them too wide.” I frowned: “That’s your wife’s business, my wife has a pair of very lovely long legs.”