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History and Memory in Vietnam Today: The Journal Xua & Nay

  • David G. Marr (a1)

Abstract

Amidst rapid socio-economic change, many Vietnamese are anxious to preserve some memories and traditions against the ravages of time. This essay examines Tap Chi Xua & Nay (Past and Present Journal), a popular publication of the Vietnam History Association, to demonstrate how history is being recreated and memory redefined even as the editors claim to uphold timeless patriotic verities.

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1 Marr, David and Sidel, Mark, “Understanding the World Outside: Vietnamese Translations of Foreign Social Science Publications”, in The Mass Media in Vietnam, ed. Marr, David G. (Canberra: Australian National University, 1998), pp. 125, 132–35.

2 Authorization to publish was not received from the Ministry of Culture and Information until 25 October 1993. As of March 1998, twenty-six issues of Huế Xua & Nay had been published, with print runs of 1000–2000 copies. The Huế history association is also closely connected with Thuận Hóa Publishing House, which probably can boast a higher percentage of history books on its list than any other publisher in Vietnam.

3 For a revealing study of Nghiên Cứi Lịch Sứ in earlier days, see Pelley, Patricia M., “Writing Revolution: the New History in Post-colonial Vietnam” (Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, 1993).

4 The president of the association is Professor Phan Huy Lê, of Hanoi National University, while the honorary president is Gen. Võ Nguyên Giáp. Informally, members prefer to call it the Historical Studies Association (Hội Sử Học), in some cases because they consider “historical science” an outmoded term, redolent of Marxist-Leninist assumptions.

5 Time considerations made it impossible for me to incorporate the “B” issues into this essay's subsequent discussion of content.

6 Xưa & Nay issue # (0), p. 3. (Because of the large number of articles cited and quoted in this article, authors and titles will not be given in most cases; only the issue and page numbers will be provided.)

7 Hà Văn Tấn, “Lien sử, Sự thật, và Sử học”, # (0), pp. 4–6.

8 Quốc Anh, # (0), pp. 16–17.

9 Lê Son, in # (9), p. 22. No mention is made of less dramatic twists and turns in Hanoi regarding Stalin, although many readers would make this connection themselves.

10 Đỗ Đứe Dục, # (36), pp. 20–21. The journal received numerous letters supporting this correction to received wisdom, including four from retired generals and colonels. See # (38), p. 18.

11 # (6), p. 13; (8), p. 13; (22), p. 18; (33), pp. 25–26; (34), p. 10; and (38), p. 17.

12 What follows is my periodization, as a convenient way to organize discussion. Xưa & Nay does not structure its content in this manner.

13 Phan Huy Lê, in # (46), pp. 11–12.

14 # (20), p. 31; (23), pp. 29–32; (30), pp. 33–34.

15 French radio interview with Hoàng Xuân Hãn shortly before his 1996 death, reprinted in # (35), pp. 6–7. The Tây Son defeated Chinese invaders in 1789 and terminated the Lê Dynasty, but began to come apart after the sudden death of Quang Trung in 1792. Articles about the Tây Son can be found in # (47), pp. 4–5; and (56), pp. 21–22.

16 Tôn Nữ Quýnh Trân, in # (33), pp. 35–36; and (34), pp. 27–29.

17 Nguyễn Văn Kiệm, in # (36), pp. 26–28. Two years earlier, the editors of Xưa & Nay had quoted Hō Chí Minh's assertion that Vietnam was independent “before King Gia Long sold the country to the French”. See # (15), p. 3. The journal Huế Xua & Nay has taken the lead in rehabilitating the Nguyễn, with others less euphoric.

18 # (16), p. 21; (17), pp. 23–24; and (25), p. 16.

19 Đỗ Dức Hùng, in # (13), pp. 27–28.

20 Nguyễn Văn Kiệm, in # (40), pp. 21–22, 40. Other articles on Minh Mạng: # (47), p. 41; (51), pp. 27–30; and (55), pp. 27–28.

21 # (17), p. 34.

22 # (21), p. 32.

23 # (15), p. 34.

24 See Marr, David G., Vietnamese Anticolonialism, 1885–1925 (Berkeley: University of California, 1971), p. 39, for relevant citations.

25 Phan Huy Lê, in # (43), pp. 14–16, 39–40. Other articles about Phan Thanh Giản can be found in # (3), p. 24; and (10), pp. 9–11.

26 Đỗ Quang Hung, in # (0), pp. 18–19; (10), pp. 13–14; (11), pp. 5–6; and (43), p. 11. Trần Văn Hùng, in # (31), p. 33, chides Đỗ Quang Hung for confusing original texts and translations of two letters sent by Hồ Chí Minh to Comintern headquarters.

27 See, for example, Quinn-Judge, Sophie, “Ho Chi Minh: New Perspectives from the Comintern Files”, Vietnam Forum 14 (1994): 6181.

28 Trần Thái Bình, in # (16), pp. 24–25. Responses in # (18), p. 29.

29 Nguyễn Văn Khoan, in # (16), pp. 16–18. Tôn Thất Hoàng, in # (16), pp. 18–20. # (3), pp. 16–17. # (27), pp. 12–14.

30 Nguyễn Xuân Sanh, in # (15), pp. 18–19; and (32), pp. 10–11. No mention is made of Duong Dứe Hiền's later opposition to specific government policies or the harsh treatment he underwent in the years immediately preceding his death.

31 # (5), p. 2; (14), p. 22; (22), pp. 3, 13; (30), pp. 18–19; (42), pp. 7–8, 15–16.

32 # (5), pp. 18–19; (8), pp. 16–17; (9), pp. 20–22; (24), p. 21. Excerpts from Trưong Vīnh Ký's 1876 trip diary are reprinted in # (56), pp. 24–25, without mentioning that he was partly engaged in a reconnaissance mission for the French authorities in Saigon.

33 Quốc Ann, in # (27), pp. 25–26. See also #(13), p. 18.

34 Phan Khôi 1936 obituary of Nguyễn Văn Vīnh, reprinted in # (23), pp. 13–14.

35 Hà Vǎn Tấn, in # (35), pp. 31–32. Nguyễn Thiệu Lâu, in # (40), pp. 29–30. See also # (44), pp. 10–11; and (47), pp. 8–10.

36 Stéphane Souhailte, in # (0), p. 25.

37 B. Vinogradov, in # (21), p. 8. Four decades prior, Đào Duy Ann had castigated Goloubew for tying Đông Son bronze culture to the Hán Chinese. See Văi, Sử Địa 1 (1954): 1429.

38 Phan Đăng Nhật, in # (38), pp. 23–24.

39 Đào Hùng, in # (16), pp. 26–27. Đào Hùng also contributes an admiring obituary of the French anthropologist André-Georges Haudricourt, in # (31), p. 25.

40 Jean Cousso, # (17), pp. 20–22. The author has been lobbying government officials in both France and Vietnam to establish a suitable home for his grandfather's library and to sponsor research on long ignored topics. The Association has been revived in France, and is negotiating with authorities in Huế for a resumed presence in the former royal capital.

41 Editorial, # (45), p. 3.

42 Vụ Cận, in # (56), pp. 32–33.

43 Trần Văn Quang, in # (19), pp. 22–23.

44 Hồ Đức Thành, in # (12), p. 10. Hoàng Minh Giám, in # (25), pp. 7–8. Quốc Tuấn, in # (18), pp. 6–7.

45 Provided by Vān Tạo, in # (52), p. 29.

46 Bửu Tiởn, in # (0), pp. 22–23. Nguyễn Thạch Kim, in # (20), p. 30. Nakahara Mitsunobu (a Japanese defector to the Việt Minh cause), in # (38), pp. 9–19. In December 1993, the Vietnam Historical Science Association sponsored a workshop on the life of Nguyễn Son and the subsequent publication of Tuóng Nguyễn Son (General Nguyễn Son), edited by Dụng, Nguyễn Kim and Khoan, Nguyễn Văn (Hanoi, 1994).

47 Nguyễn Son's inclusion in a 1993 Beijing book about China's “foreign friends” may have convinced the authorities in Hanoi that something needed to be said.

48 Đặng Minh Phương, in # (22), p. 26.

49 Ngô Vi Thiện, in # (20), pp. 17–18. See also the story of Trần Khánh, a popular singer, whose undercover job it was to ferret out individual traitors to the Việt Minh cause, only to find himself arrested as an alleged French spy and unable to clear his name for 28 years. Quốc Trung, in # (22), pp. 8–9.

50 Phùng Quén, in # (31), p. 19.

51 Hoàng Minh PhႰơng, in # (4), pp. 14, 27.

52 Editorial, # (3), p. 3.

53 Văn Tạo, in # (33), pp. 4, 10. By 1954, Trần Huy Liệu was no longer a government minister, simply a member of the National Assembly and head of the nascent Historical Studies Institute.

54 Excerpt from Lise London, Le printemps des camarades (Paris: Ed. Du Seuil, 1996), translated in # (48), pp. 25–27. The author had known Hồ Chí Minh in Moscow in 1935. Her husband was Artur London, jailed by Stalin in 1951.

55 # (53), p. 17.

56 Võ Nguyên Giáp is given an unprecedented 21 pages over four issues to recount his version of the final offensive in early 1975, helpful to military historians if placed beside the memoirs of Văn Tiến Dũng, Trần Văn Trà and others, but out of character for a general history magazine. I was told that other history journals had declined to publish the manuscript. See # (14), pp. 4–6, 27–33; (17), pp. 14–17; (18), pp. 19–22; and (19), pp. 19–21.

57 See the accounts of: Herbert Morrison's self-immolation in 1965, # (14), pp. 9–10; Harry Ashmore's peace visit to Hanoi in 1967, # (41), pp. 31–32; the Võ Nguyên Giáp-Robert McNamara meetings in 1995 and 1997, # (21), p. 15; (41), pp. 28–30; and Admiral Elmo Zumwalt's remorse at his late 1960s Agent Orange sprayings over Vietnam, # (38), pp. 15–16.

58 Q.A., in # (40), p. 29.

59 Interview with Nguyễn Nhā, former publisher of Tập San Sử Địa (1966–75), in # (40), pp. 7–8. Nguyễn Lê Thắng, “Tạp Chí Bách Khoa Saigon (1957–1975)” in # (40), pp. 9–10.

60 Nguyễn Đình Đầu, in # (27), pp. 15–16. The article is in the form of a testament to Nguyễn Văn Huyên, the last RVN Vice-President, who died in October 1995.

61 Trần Văn Hà, in # (41), pp. 12–13.

62 Thanh Long and Quế Duong, in # (36), pp. 13–14.

63 Quốc Anh interviewing Văn Tạo, in # (33), p. 10.

64 Editorial comment prefacing Trần Văn Quý, in # (19), p. 16.

65 The best discussion to date is Boudarel, Georges, Cent flews écloses dans la nuit du Vietnam: Communisme et dissidence 1954–1956 (Paris: Éditions Jacques Bertoin, 1991).

66 # (18), p. 13.

67 Editorial comment, and obituary by Lê Huy Quang, in # (13), p. 25.

68 Nguyễn Hữu Đăng, in # (31), pp. 5–6. Nguyễn Hữu Đăng is first mentioned in # (6), p. 7, and a photograph of him is reprinted in # (19), p. 8. According to Vũ Thu Hiên, Đêm Giũa Ban Ngày [Night in the middle of the day] (Westminster, CA: Văn Nghễ, 1997), p. 117, Nguyễn Hữu Đăng spent fifteen years in jail and another twenty years on probation.

69 Hà Văn Tấn, in # (33), pp. 7–8. Đào Duy Ann's encounters with Saigon intellectuals in 1978 are described by Pham Văn Hạng, in # (9), pp. 16–17. An extract from Đào Duy Ann's autobiography is published in # (3), p. 19. Đào Duy Ann recently was granted a Hanoi street name by the authorities, along with Trần Huy Liệu.

70 Phí Văn Bái, in # (29), p. 10.

71 VႰơng Trí Nhàn, in # (42), pp. 19–20.

72 Đỗ Lai Thúy, in # (33), pp. 13–14. hi practice, I was told, Trần Đức Thảo was consigned to translating Marx and Lenin without any published attribution.

73 Quốc Anh, in # (41), pp. 26–27. See also: Trấn Văn Hà, in # (33), pp. 15–16; Nguyễn Mạnh Tuờng, in # (41), pp. 27–28; and the TrႰờig BႰởi reunion photograph in # (12), p. 33.

74 Lê Trọng Nghīa, in # (6), pp. 4–6.

75 NguyDžn Kiến Giang, in # (23), pp. 16–18.

76 # (36), pp. 8–10.

77 Phí Văn Bái, in # (26), pp. 9–10. The son of Phạm Thị Tề and Vũ Đình Huýnh also was jailed from 1967 to 1976 and has since gone overseas and published a memoir (Vũ Thư Hiên, Đêm Giữa Ban Ngày).

78 Editorial in # (18), p. 3. The following year the government did bring to the 2 September ceremonies 89 elderly members of families who had given extensive support to the revolution.

79 List compiled by Phan Phú KhႰơng, in # (10), p. 29. Each personality also has a home province designation, to facilitate local commemoration.

80 # (23), p. 13. No list was published for 1997 or 1998.

81 # (14), pp. 9–10; (15), pp. 31–32; and (50), p. 17.

82 # (23), p. 13.

83 # (29), p. 7.

84 Americans sometimes refer to this as the “George Washington slept here” syndrome.

85 Phan Đại Doān, in # (22), p. 20. Nguyễn Ngọc Mai, in # (18), pp. 26–27.

86 # (25), pp. 13–15; (26), pp. 17–18; (27), pp. 19–21. During World War II, Komatsu was considered by many Vietnamese activists to be a Japanese intelligence agent.

87 Đặng Bằng, in # (20), p. 22.

88 # (10), p. 7.

89 # (14), pp. 7–8.

90 Quốc Anh, in # (34), pp. 39–40. See also, Việt Tùng, in # (20), pp. 15–16.

91 Nguyễn Đình Nghi, in # (32), pp. 31–32. A.Q., in # (18), p. 32. Official Chinese criticism of historical films that “exploit negative facets” of the past for market advantage is reprinted in # (31), p. 39.

92 Editorials in # (20), pp. 3–4; and (22), p. 17. Ngô Quang Nam, in # (21), pp. 19–20.

93 See, for example, Lê Xuân Quang, “Cần chú ý khi sử dung thần tích ngọc phå” (What to pay attention to when using stories of the gods), in # (10), pp. 20–21.

94 # (10), p. 4.

95 See DႰơng Trung Quốc, in # (36), p. 41, concerning the dispute at Lim village over the đinh, or communal house.

96 # (15), p. 13.

97 Thu Trang, in # (49), pp. 39–40.

98 Curiously, museologists have contributed very few articles to Xua & Nay. Two recent articles do urge more attention to preservation, codification and public awareness of existing museum collections, yet continue to ignore exhibit design or broader issues of representation. # (52), pp. 20–22.

99 # (43), p. 34; (42), p. 16; (16), p. 34; and (30), p. 3.

100 Editorial in # (19), p. 3.

101 # (4), pp. 3–11; (7), p. 26; (18), p. 31; (20), pp. 11–12; (21), pp. 20–21; and (32), p. 16.

102 # (29), p. 42; (30), pp. 20, 41; (35), p. 7; (36), pp. 18–19; and (38), p. 42.

103 # (9), p. 25; (11), pp. 34–37; (21), pp. 17–18; and (27), p. 33.

104 # (12), p. 27; and (24), pp. 32–33. See Chú, Phan Huy, Hai trình chí lươc: “Récit sommaire d'un voyage en mer” (1833), trans, and ed. , Phan Huy, Salmon, Claudine and Htễp, Ta Trọng (Paris: Cahiers d'Archipel 25, 1994).

105 # (16), cover.

106 # (15), p. 9; (20), p. 13; (9), p. 29; (19), pp. 24–25; (9), pp. 10–13; and (29), pp. 17–18.

107 Charles Benoit, in # (13), pp. 12–14. Benoit indicates the authorities suspected his role as Ford Foundation representative in the RVN but does not mention their continuing refusal to allow his 30,000 file cards to leave the country.

108 # (35), pp. 29–30.

109 # (7), pp. 28–29; 30, p. 35; (47), pp. 24–25; (12), p. 25; (4), p. 26; and (8), p. 20.

110 # (10), pp. 24–25; (25), p. 17; and (19), p. 32. Pierre Nora's massive compilation on French symbolic sites, Les lieux de mémoire (1977), is favourably reviewed in # (47), p. 30.

111 # (13), p. 30; (22), p. 27; (13), pp. 34–35; and (15), pp. 32–33.

112 Nguyễn Tùng, in # (55), pp. 32–33.

113 # (6), p. 18; (5), p. 29; and (29), pp. 35–36.

114 # (11), pp. 25–26; (9), pp. 3, 4–7; (35), pp. 21–22, 28; and (8), p. 18.

115 #(20), pp. 3–4.

116 # (25), p. 3.

117 # (53), pp. 5–7.

118 Vuong Trí Nhàn, in # (54), pp. 38–39, drawing especially on periodicals from UNESCO.

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