Veteran journalist, author, lyricist and broadcaster Saman Athaudahetti’s newest novel ‘Wasaa Waasi’ – a translation of a celebrated Vietnamese novel ‘Dumb Luck’ – will be released today. Saman who is known for his unique and prolific writing style, has been able to glue readers to this novel from start to end. Despite being a novel originally published in Vietnam in 1939, later banned and the ban lifted in the mid eighties, this book comprises a wide assortment of content that can be relevant to any period or any country.
Perhaps this is the first Vietnamese novel to be translated into Sinhala.
In the book’s back cover blurb, veteran wordsmith Kularathne Ariyawansa rightly says that if not for the Vietnamese names of persons or places in the novel, ‘Wasaa Waasi’ would be easily related to us in
Veteran wordsmith Kularathne Ariyawansa rightly says that if not for the Vietnamese names of persons or places in the novel, ‘Wasaa Waasi’ would be easily related to us in Sri Lanka.
Commenting on why he chose to translate this book, author Saman Athaudahetti said whenever he completes reading a special novel, he feels the urge to make it retold by himself in his style.
“I read so many good books from various countries, but some books really fire me from inside to translate them into Sinhala. I first read the English version of this book ‘Dumb Luck’ in Vietnam when I was introduced to a book store by Ambassador Hasanthi Dissanayake who later helped me to familiarise with the Vietnamese terms, names and places too. Another great motivational factor to translate this was veteran author and lyricist Prof. Sunil Ariyarathne. Of course, Fast Publishing Chief and my good friend Prem Dissanayake had no hesitation in publishing the book. So that’s the birth story of ‘Wasaa Waasi’,” said Saman adding that despite the book being banned in Vietnam for several decades, the ban was lifted in the eighties and is now part of the school syllabus for Advanced Level students there.
Saman is now working on translating a Japanese while doing the groundwork for a new travelogue and an original novel.
“The corona lockdown came to me as a blessing in disguise. I made good use of the time I got to spend at home. I wish that period had extended further,” he said.
Dumb Luck was authored by the brilliant, controversial and influential Vietnamese writer Vu Trong Phung whose life span was limited to just 37 years.
It is a bitter satire of the rage for modernization in Vietnam during the late-colonial era. First published in Hanoi in 1936, it follows the absurd and unexpected rise within colonial society of a street-smart vagabond named Red-haired Xuân. As it charts Xuân's fantastic social ascent, the novel provides a panoramic view of late-colonial urban social order-from the filthy sidewalks of Hanoi's old commercial quarter to the gaudy mansions of the emergent Francophile northern upper classes. A major theme of the work is the transformation of traditional Vietnamese class and gender relations triggered by the growth of colonial capitalism.
This novel, banned in most of Vietnam until 1986, is the first translation of a major work by Vu Trong Phung. The novel's clever plot, richly drawn characters, humorous tone, and preoccupation with sex, fashion, and capitalism will attract a wide audience.
Vu Trong Phung is arguably the greatest Vietnamese writer of the twentieth century. Compared to Balzac by some, he was a prolific and controversial satirist unafraid to challenge the prevailing mores of his age. Although he died before his twenty-seventh birthday, Vu Trong Phung amassed a body of work that includes eight novels, seven plays, and five book-length works of nonfiction. Dumb Luck is generally acknowledged as his defining masterpiece.