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  • Writer's pictureMichael Arnold

Book Launch at L'Usine

Metro Writers was responsible for creating the international edition of Letters in Love and War, and we feel greatly honoured to have had the opportunity to bring this important book to the attention of English language speakers around the world.

The authors of this book are quite well known in Vietnamese literary society; Vu Tu Nam in particular is a household name, as his work for children has been studied as part of the national school curriculum for many years now. This book is their love story, which began back in 1948. It started at a military rally when the beautiful young writer Thanh Huong addressed a group of soldiers from the Dai Hoi Tap battalion, encouraging them on behalf of the women of Vietnam to fight bravely against the enemy—who at the time were the occupying French forces. Among them was Vu Tu Nam, and he was very taken with this woman, standing at the podium with her white skin, bright eyes and endearing habit of tilting her head as she spoke.

Just a couple of weeks ago now while launching this book in Hanoi, Vu Tu Nam admitted that he fell in love with Thanh Huong at first sight. Sadly it would take a little while longer before she noticed him in return. They were both just 19.

Thanh Huong later wrote letters to the battalion to keep encouraging them to fight. Vu Tu Nam was serving as the war correspondent among them, so it fell to him to reply to her. Although she used a pseudonym, he managed to guess who she was, and so he tried very hard to make an impression on her with his fine words. When the battalion later returned to base, they met in person. After that, they didn’t stop writing to each other, and they were in fact married a few years later, and would end up spending the rest of their lives together.

Throughout the war period they were both prolific writers, and they went on to become frequently published authors. They served with great historic figures, including Ho Chi Minh himself and General Vo Nguyen Giap, as well as heroic martyrs such as Nguyen Chi Thanh.

Thanh Huong became the Chief Editor of the prestigious Vietnamese Women’s magazine, which served as an important voice in establishing the role of women in the new Vietnam; Vu Tu Nam became the General Secretary of the Vietnam Literary Association, and for a while served in government.

These two writers lived in extraordinary times, and they shared an extraordinary love—not in a dramatic or exceptionally passionate sense, but in that, through their shared loved of writing, they forged an unbreakable bond, Their love survived long periods of separation and testing, and it has remained unwavering for almost seventy years now.

These letters have much to teach us about the power of words and the nature of a lifelong love. One of the most important lessons we have learned from working on this book is that when two people share a great love, that love is passed down in their families. We have had the honor of meeting a number of Vu Tu Nam and Thanh Huong’s descendants, some of whom are well-known public figures. There is a lot of love in the Vu-Nguyen family. That is the true legacy of these writers, and the love letters they have shared with us in this volume invite us to follow their example—their commitment to each other—in our own lifetimes of love.

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