I've begun reading a wonderful book of short stories and want to share it with you.
Nam Le is one of the Vietnamese boat people now making such a mark on Australian society with skills, determination and sheer hard work.
Still a baby in 1979, Nam Le journeyed with his family to make a new life in an unfamiliar land. He became a lawyer but, always a creature of his imagination, turned to writing in his spare time.
These efforts won a scholarship to the famed Iowa Writers Workshop in the USA, and now Mr Le is receiving world wide attention for his first published book The Boat.
The stories which are book ends to this collection speak of a Vietnamese background. In gentle rhythmic sentences the first story The Boat draws pictures of a sometimes taut relationship between a father and son. The two are influenced to varying degrees by former culture and new, by a life long lived and youth treading new paths. The dissonance is beautifully drawn.
It is the pages in between the two Vietnamese stories that have the critics gasping. Here Le is able to manifest people and situations naturally foreign to him in most persuasive ways.
He has an uncanny ability to burrow his way into the skins of people of other cultures, producing works of staggering insight. These imaginary worlds are the results of assiduous research, not personal experience. Locations and the varied characters emerge fully rounded, despite the brevity of the narratives.
This passage is from Nam Le's story Cartagena:
He smiles now: a charming host. In the deflected light, I notice for the first time a flabbiness in his cheeks. His braided hair looks wet. We stand on the balcony and look out over the blacked-out barrio. There are valleys out there, and swells, and rises, all unseen by our eyes. The night air gives off traces of wood smoke, sewage. In the immediate candlelight, the glass on top of the walls glimmers hints of every colour, and it is beautiful.
Each story has a different character. I can't wait to read the rest.
The Boat is published by Hamish Hamilton.