Ngô Thế Vinh – Văn Việt Literary Prize Acceptance Speech

To the staff at Văn Việt Forum

To the Committee of the Văn Việt Literary Prize 

I feel honored to learn that the 2017 Văn Việt Literary Prize was awarded to my books, Cửu Long Cạn Dòng Biển Đông Dậy Sóng/ The Nine Dragons Drained Dry — The East Sea In Turmoil and Mekong Dòng Sông Nghẽn Mạch/ Mekong — The Occluding River. The two works deal with the survival of a great river of the world, and the livelihood of not only our beloved Vietnam but also of the more than 70 million people inhabiting the seven nations that border its banks. In the works, I present a wealth of data demonstrating that the Mekong is facing a critical threat to its survival. Furthermore, in those pages, I also wish to draw the readers’ attention to the prospect that China, by her dangerous intervention in the river, will inevitably collide with the other nations in the Mekong River Basin. And, that prospect is gradually becoming a reality. In recent years, events unfolded before our eyes are consistent with the prediction that “Mekong being drained dry and the East Sea in turmoil.” The fact that the independent literary group Văn Việt shows special interest in and decides to give the award to the two books dealing with such “sensitive and delicate” issues bring special meaning and honor to me.

The award touches my heart. The two works, Cửu Long Cạn Dòng Biển Đông Dậy Sóng (2000) and the Mekong Dòng Sông Nghẽn Mạch (2007), have gone through multiple editions abroad over the past decade or so, but to this day, they have yet to be published in Vietnam by an “official” publisher. The explanation being offered is the “insurmountable difficulty” which is nothing other than the “Chinese factor”. That fundamental “factor” is inflicting havoc on the 4,800 km long river, and is threatening the livelihood of the millions of inhabitants in the Basin. In addition, that “factor” also acts as a stranglehold on the academic freedom of our nation.

Under such unfavorable circumstances, the young founders of the underground / “lề trái” publisher “Giấy Vụn” still found the courage to disregard all difficulties and dangers and published – with very limited circulation – those two books in 2012 and 2014, respectively. I would be remiss not to mention that the Văn Việt Forum has uploaded the two books on its website including the Audiobook form in 2016. In doing so, the Forum has contributed significantly to the dissemination of information pertaining to the hydroelectric dams on the Mekong and the destructive exploitation of the ecosystem of that most important river.

I have been a writer in Vietnam and abroad, I have crossed the threshold from one century into the next, I have lived under two political regimes, and I have survived the years in the “re-education camps”. I cannot help but empathize with the writers and artists who are living now without freedom of expression in our homeland. Nevertheless, I still keep alive my faith that out of the burning ashes, phoenixes will unfailingly rise to bring us hope. I am referring here to the writer Bùi Ngọc Tấn the author of Chuyện Kể Năm 2000.

In the past, I have cooperated with Văn Việt Forum, because the Forum brings together authors who harbor a deep love for freedom and independence — the crucial elements for creativity — and because they reject to serve as agents of the authorities. The Forum does not confine itself to literary matters, but also remains a progressive, courageous podium for citizens who are committed to the future of our homeland to come forward and voice their concerns. Furthermore, Văn Việt is striving to introduce the readers in Vietnam the banned Literature and Arts in South Vietnam during the 1954-1975 period. Thus, Văn Việt is building a bridge connecting Vietnamese writers and artists living all over the world to rally and fight for the freedom of expression and work toward a democratic, progressive Vietnam. It is making its presence felt around the globe. The work of Văn Việt deserves our appreciation.

Today, on this third day of the third month of the year — is a special day. It is the day we commemorate the 31st World Writers Day and the third anniversary of the founding of the Campaign Committee for the Association of Independent Writers/ Ban Vận động Văn đoàn Độc lập. I am honored to accept the 2017 Văn Việt Literary Prize in the hope that the prospect of a “clean environment and sustainable development ” — now under a “red alert” threat — would become the concern for every one of us in our entire nation and not limited to our brethren living along the Mekong River or in the Mekong Delta. I also would like to extend an invitation to my young friends at the Giấy Vụn Publishing House to share with me in accepting the honor conferred by this award. They are courageously marching on a challenging but extremely meaningful road to the goal of “freedom of publication” that is cherished by authors and readers alike.

Thank you.


California 03.03.2017

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