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tho ho xuan huong den voi doc gia my

Tac gia: Ho Xuan Huong
O cap hoc pho thong trung hoc hien nay, Ho Xuan Huong co hai bai tho duoc day trong chuong trinh quoc van: Banh troi nuoc va Moi trau. Cac co cau lop chin lop muoi duoc hoc nghe thuat long mot bai tho trong mot bai tho, muon mot vat thong thuong vo thuong vo phat de noi mot dieu khong nen, khong the, khong duoc noi ra. Co the mot so giao vien giang them ve tam trang va than phan cua mot phu nu tai hoa trong mot xa hoi phong kien o giai doan suy tan. Cai tai hoa cua nguoi phu nu do the hien qua cach dung an du tai tinh, vua ngu trong phong canh my mieu nhung dieu tran trui ban nang, vua bang loi le binh dan thang thung the hien nhung khat vong cao ca. Co the ho cung noi den su phan khang am tham ma manh liet cua mot phu nu-con nguoi doi voi mot xa hoi day ray nhung tro bi hai, bat cong, thoi nat; va cuoc noi loan tho ca cua mot phu nu-nha van trong cai the gioi van chuong Nho giao chinh thong dao mao noi ma dan ong ngu tri suot ca nghin nam. It nhat thi do cung la nhung gi toi da duoc hoc ve Ho Xuan Huong khi toi la mot co gai muoi lam tuoi.

Tu do Ho Xuan Huong tro nen hien thuc va hien dai trong tam tri lan cuoc song cua toi tung ngay khi di cho nghe cac ba xai cach noi lai Ho Xuan Huong de cuoi dua voi nhau; hay trong mot tinh huong te nhi, chi co cach doc len cau tho lat leo Ho Xuan Huong moi thay da. Cho den mot luc, Ho Xuan Huong doi voi toi khong la mot truyen thuyet hay mot tac gia hai tram nam truoc, va la mot ban dong hanh than thiet tin cay, luon co vu toi bang nu cuoi hom hinh, vui nhon, lap che di noi dang cay cuc nhuc. Moi khi ngang dau len toi deu nhin thay hinh anh Ho Xuan Huong tren con duong gap ghenh, trong tu the loang choang, chan truot, cang xoac, tay dang ra, tay gio len choi voi, khong co cho tua, khong noi bau viu vay ma trong cai the gay co nhu choi ay, ba van ung dung dap le bon dan ong cuoi ho ho chung quanh rang: Gio tay voi thu troi cao thap, xoac cang do xem dat ngan dai. Khau khi ay ma xuat phat tu mieng mot nguoi dan ong cua bat ky thoi dai nao cung duoc coi la ngang tang, khi phach. Nhung thot ra tu mieng mot phu nu, du hai tram nam truoc hay bay gio, van co ke cho la "ngang nguoc".

Neu co mot su gia cua phu nu Viet Nam tren van dan the gioi, nguoi do la Ho Xuan Huong.

Co mot thuc te dau long, la hinh anh nguoi phu nu Viet Nam ma nguoi nam chau nhat duoc trong nhung tac pham van hoc nghe thuat ma ho co the thuong lam bang tieng Anh la hinh anh mot co gai diem: tu co Phuong trong Nguoi My tham lang cua nha van Anh Graham Greene, den nhung gai ban bar va me My thap thoang va nhan nhan trong tac pham nhung nha van cuu binh My tung tham chien o Viet Nam, tu phim Viet kieu lam nhu Ba mua den nhac kich rat My Miss Sai Gon, tham chi tac pham kinh dien nhat cua van hoc Viet Nam duoc gioi thieu ra nuoc ngoai la Truyen Kieu, thi cung do rao can ngon ngu ma cai trac tuyet van chuong bi rot lai, de chi con den voi doc gia Tay phuong cuoc doi mot co gai lau xanh! Doi lan, den xu nguoi noi chuyen van chuong xu minh, toi deu cau cuu Ho Xuan Huong, nhung luc bat tong tam, lam sao voi mot chut tieng Anh ngap ngong, toi phac hoa duoc mot Ho Xuan Huong doc dao cua Viet Nam, de minh hoa niem tu hao cua toi ve nguoi phu nu lam van hoc Viet Nam?

Vi vay khong the noi het duoc toi xuc dong va biet on nhu the nao khi toi cam quyen Tho Ho Xuan Huong, ban dich tieng Anh cua John Balaban. Mot nguoi ban, nha tho Jo seph Duemer dua toi xem khi no con la ban in thu va chua chinh thuc xuat ban o My. Sach gom 48 bai tho cua Ho Xuan Huong, moi bai duoc trinh bay trang trong duoi ba hinh thuc: ban tieng Nom, ban tieng Viet, va ban tieng Anh. (John Balaban tu hao rang, day la lan dau tien tho Ho Xuan Huong duoc xuat ban bang chu Nom, it ra la o My; la thu chu ma ba da dung de sang tac cach day hai tram nam va hanh dong do co y nghia cach mang trong su phat trien van hoc Viet Nam, vi phan lon dan ong tri thuc thoi do deu dung chu Han). Cam dong, toi lat tung trang, doc lai nhung bai tho minh da thuoc long tu lau va nghe nhung cam giac moi la lien tiep nay ra trong long minh. Nhung mot noi so hai dot nhien vo ra: ban tieng Anh nay chuyen tai duoc bao nhieu "chat Ho Xuan Huong"?
John Balaban la mot nha tho My ma sang tac cua ban than ong da hai lan duoc de cu giai thuong Sach quoc gia va da doat hai giai thuong uy tin ve tho, dieu do du bao dam cai ong dich ra tu tho Ho Xuan Huong cung la tho o mot muc do nghe thuat rung cam duoc doc gia My cua ong. Nhung nhung doc gia song o mot xa hoi phuong Tay ma de tai sex va de tai nu quyen duoc khai thac thuong xuyen duoi muon hinh van trang, song lai khong co hinh trang nao nhu Ho Xuan Huong, thi lieu ho co cam nhan duoc Ho Xuan Huong khong, hay doc bai tho Oc nhoi chi thay con oc nhoi, doc bai Deo Ba Doi chi thay cay voi da? Ho co cam nhan duoc chang noi chua chat mot cach nghen ngao trong giong thach thuc day mon tron: Quan tu co thuong thi boc yem, va noi tui hon pha ngao man trong loi van xin gian du: Xin dung ngo ngoay lo tron toi. (John Balaban dich la: Kind sir, if you want me, open my door. But please don't poke up into my tail. Va giai thich tinh song nghia cua tu "yem" trong phan ghi chu.) Nha tho - dich gia dung nhieu chu thich duoi nhung bai tho duoc trich dang trong tap chi The American Poetry Review, va trong bai viet dai hon hai trang bao kho lon ve Ho Xuan Huong, ong co gang giai thich voi doc gia My ve ngon ngu Viet Nam, cho mot thi du "dich tung chu o bai tho Choi den khan xuan ben canh bai tho hoan chinh ma ong da tai tao. Cau dau Em ai chieu xuan toi khan dai duoc dich tung chu la Peaceful evening spring go pavilion va duoc thi hoa thanh A gentle spring evening arrives (neu dich nguoc lai cau nay sang tieng Viet la Mot chieu xuan tao nha den). Doc di doc lai nhung bai tho Ho Xuan Huong bang tieng Anh, cang cam dong va kham phuc no luc cua John Balaban; va cang nhan ra chu nghia Ho Xuan Huong khong ai theo kip suot chieu dai thoi gian ma cung khong co tuong duong trong binh dien khong gian. Trong bai Lam le John Balaban dich chu Chem cha la Screw va giai thich cut father la mot tieng chui. Nhung den cau Co dam an xoi, xoi lai hong. Cam bang lam muon, muon khong cong thi cau tieng Anh You try to stick to it like a fly on rice but a rice is rotten. You slave like the mai, but without pay neu duoc dich lai tieng Viet se la May co bam vo no nhu mot con ruoi dau dinh vo xoi, ma xoi lai hong. May lam viec quan quat nhu mot con o, ma khong duoc tra cong. Dieu chac chan la John Balaban thau hieu y nghia tung chu tung cau tho cua Ho Xuan Huong, nhung ro rang trong tieng Anh khong co tuong duong cua thanh ngu "Co dam" va "Cam bang" dac thu cua van hoa lang xa va tam thai nong dan o mot dat nuoc co nen van minh hang nghin nam trai qua dieu kien thien nhien, chinh tri, xa hoi luon trac tro.

Tho khong phai la cai nguoi ta co the bac dong bo len can roi ket luan khien cuong ve tinh chinh xac. Cai hieu qua luon luon o phan ung cua nguoi doc. Toi canh mai den khi cuon sach chinh thuc phat hanh o My hoi thang 10-2000, (tua Spring Essence: The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong, Nha xuat ban Copper Canyon), viet thu bao ban be ben ay tim doc va noi cho toi biet ho thay the nao. Toi lai dem dem len mang, canh xem doc gia noi gi.

Mot doc gia o Phoenix, bang Arizona, ky ten G. Merritt viet: Qua tho ca Ho Xuan Huong duoc biet den tai choi chu, oc khoi hai sac sao, long khao khat tinh yeu, noi cam gian su thoi nat. (...) Nhung bai tho nay rat goi tinh va khieu dam, day nghia doi... Balaban da thanh cong trong cong viec phien dich hinh anh Ho Xuan Huong sang nhung van tho tieng Anh cong huong voi huong sac mua xuan. (...) Tuyen tap tho giau tinh goi tinh nay khien toi hy vong duoc doc them nua. Noi that vong duy nhat cua toi la duoc biet quyen sach mong tram trang nay chua "hau het nhung bai tho hien con luu hanh cua Ho Xuan Huong". Quyen sach mong nay toa sang ruc ro.

Mot bai diem sach cua Jon Spayde bat dau bang cau: Doi khi sach thuc su thay doi the gioi. Bai bao danh phan lon noi dung de noi den cuoc doi va tho ca cua Ho Xuan Huong, no luc cua nha tho - dich gia Balaban chuyen the di san van hoa nay sang tieng Anh mot cach tai tinh, cung dong gop cua nha ngon ngu hoc Ngo Thanh Nhan o truong dai hoc New York, da dat ra kieu chu Nom dung cho may tinh, de viec in an de dang, co the giup cong viec bao ton va truyen ba chu Nom co nhieu trien vong hon. Cuoi cung la thien chi va cong lao cua ong chu bien Nha xuat ban Copper Canyon, da ung ho nhiet tinh va tao dieu kien cho tho Ho Xuan Huong ra mat o My.

Mot so nguoi diem sach ngoai viec ghi nhan gia tri chan dong (shock value) cua quyen Tho Ho Xuan Huong, lai to ra di ung cai bia. Hinh anh loa the cua nguoi phu nu hai tay nang mot cai met che mat, theo ong Wiegers chu bien Nha xuat ban Copper Canyon, la mot an du hay cho mot nha tho nu ma "than the bi ngo vuc suot lich su va bi giai cap cam quyen coi thuong, nhung ba va tho cua ba van ton tai." Va lai cai bia rat dep. John Balaban thi noi : Toi lo lang den phan ung cua nguoi Viet Nam doi voi cai bia sach, chu "Khong ngo nguoi My lai bi doi vi cai do". Ong noi them: "Dieu do that quai dan, boi vi suot ca doi, Ho Xuan Huong da dung len va bat phuc nhung chuan muc dao duc khat khe, vay ma 200 nam sau, ba lai dung dau no tai ngay nuoc My nay".

Toi khong biet nhan danh ai trong tam chuc trieu nguoi dang co chung nen van hoa Viet noi tho Ho Xuan Huong nhu uong nuoc an com, yeu Ho Xuan Huong nhu yeu me, chi, vo, em, ban, nhu yeu minh, de noi cam on John Balaban. Toi xin cam on ong voi tu cach mot phu nu Viet Nam.

LY LAN

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Ho Xuan Huong goes to the US
Ly Lan
Imagine Ho Xuan Huong's sensual poetry is being taught in this formal class setting!

Ho Xuan Huong now has her rightful place among the classics of world literature. She is no longer a poet only for the Vietnamese people to love and marvel at- she is now available, thanks to John Balaban, to anyone who reads English as well.

Ho Xuan Huong is a modern reality in my mind and my life, not an antique and 'classical' poet in a dusty volume on the bookshelf. In the market, I often hear women teasing one another by borrowing Ho Xuan Huong's sexual puns to avoid using the direct words. While boozing, when drunken men often made dirty jokes about women, I have heard women defend them selves by reciting one or another of Ho Xuan Huong's verses, for instance 'Teasing Chieu Ho':

Is the master drunks? Is the master awake? Why flirt with the moon in the middle of the day? Perhaps there's something I ought to say: Don't stick your hand in the tiger's cave.

Of course, if the man in question is able to respond by quoting, 'Chieu Ho's Reply,' also by Ho Xuan Huong, he is perhaps not as drunk as he appears.

Ho Xuan Huong has become my trusty companion, the one who always encourages me with her mischievous wit, which is itself usually enough for me to over come bitterness and humiliation. Her strength of mind as expressed in verses like the following urges me to struggle on against the odds:

I am reaching up my hand to see
if the sky is high or low
I am stretching out my legs to see
if the land is long or short.

Had these words come from the mouth of a man in any era, they would have been thought defiant and brave, or at least very funny; however, coming from a woman, these words were condemned as "perverse and impertinent" two hundred years ago, and even today some people treat them the same way. Anyhow, her spirit survives intact.

Women like Ho Xuan Huong should be seen as a symbol of Vietnamese women in literature, but unfortunately this is not always the case, especially in the eyes of some foreign writes: Vietnamese women are often depicted as the devoted servants of men, or simple as sexual objects. Ms Phuong in Graham Greene's 'The Quiet American' is simply the best-known such portrayal. Vietnamese bar girls or women married to American men also often appear in literary works of American war veterans or in films produced by overseas Vietnamese such as 'Three Seasons,' or in musicals like 'Miss Saigon.' And even when Vietnamese classical literature is introduced overseas, many of the nuances are left out, so that a great and subtle poem like 'Truyen Kieu' (the Tale of Kieu), is flattened into unrecognisability, giving readers in Western countries the impression that Kieu is nothing more than a talented brothel girl.

But Ho Xuan Huong's poetry gives another picture. In her poem Phan Dan Ba (The Condition of Women), she writes:

Sisters, do you know how it is?
On one hand,
the bawling baby; on the other your husband
sliding onto your stomach,
his little son still howling at your side
Yet, everything must be put in order
Rushing around all helter-skelter
Husband and child, what obligations!
Sisters, do you know how it is?

When I lecture abroad, I often introduce Ho Xuan Huong's poetry to my audiences, but with my limited English, how can I manage to say what needs to be communicated?

So you can imagine how touched and honoured I felt when an American friend of mine, poet Joseph Dumer, showed me a translation of Ho Xuan Huong when it was in galley proofs and not yet published. (The book has subsequently been published in the US by Copper Canyon Press). 'Spring Essence: The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong' is a collection of 48 of Ho Xuan Huong's poems printed in nom (Vietnamese alphabet) and English. The translator, John Balaban, notes in the introduction that he is particularly proud of the fact that this is the first time poetry has been published in nom script using modern printing technologies. Holding the book in my hands, I read again through the poems I had so long ago learnt by heart; old feelings flooded into my heart. But then a question sprang to my mind: How much of the Ho Xuan Huong whom Vietnamese know and love is left in this version of her poems?

I know John Balaban is a great poet, and he also speaks Vietnamese very well, so I should not have questioned his authority. The concern, however, still lingered in my mind: Would American readers be able to perceive the sharpness and subtlety of Ho Xuan Huong's dual language when sex is so openly talked about in the US? Would they see only the snail in the poem 'Vinh Oc Nhoi' (River Snail), and only trees and rocks in 'Dao Ba Doi' (Three Mountain Pass)? would the readers be able to sense the unutterable bitterness in the poet's attitude in 'Vinh Oc Nhoi,' the speaker says (in a fairly literal translation), "Sir, if you love me, you may take off my yem' (Here yem can be understood as a girl's bra as well as part of a nail's shell, the plastron). Or would the readers be able to understand the woman's humiliation, defiance and anger when she implores: "But please don't poke into the pointed end of my shell"? John Balaban translates these lines as "Kind sir, if you want me, open my door. But please don't poke up into my tail." He also explains the double meaning of the word yem in an endnote; indeed, such notes are necessary in many cases to convey the full irony, humour and beauty of the poems. Balaban's notes, however, are those of a poet rather than a scholar (though they draw on the work of scholars) and for this reason reading them is never an irritation as it can be in other translated works.

Reading and rereading John Balaban's translation of Ho Xuan Huong, I have concluded that it is her poetry and not merely a dim shadow of it. John Balaban makes Ho Xuan Huong's characteristic attitude, as well as the balance of her language, come through to startling effect - I admire him for his efforts. Ho Xuan Huong now has her rightful place among the classics of world literature. She is no longer a poet only for the Vietnamese people to love and marvel at - she is now available, thanks to John Balaban, to anyone who reads English as well. As a Vietnamese woman, I thank you, John Balaban

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