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The Boat Paperback – 19 February 2009
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|Paperback, 19 February 2009||
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- Publisher : Canongate Books Ltd; Main edition (19 February 2009)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1847671616
- ISBN-13 : 978-1847671615
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 243,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
A promising and fiercely talented writer ― * Telegraph *
The short story collection is constantly on the endangered list, but this stunning collection...shows that it is alive and in the best of health. ― * The Times *
An assured and tremendously readable collection from a young writer with rare scope and strength. ― * Observer *
These are people on the edge, and Nam's prose captures their desperation...bold and worthwhile. Memoirists should stick to what they know; the point of literature is to expand the limits of the world. -- Aravind Adiga ― * Financial Times *
Le has the ability to hit notes of real emotional intensity. -- Hari Kunzru ― * Scotsman *
Each voice is achingly present and authentic . . . ['Halflead Bay'] is as good as anything Tim Winton has produced about Australian society. ― * Guardian *
Wonderful stories that snarl and pant across our crazed world . . . an extraordinary performance by a fine new talent. Nam Le is a heartbreaker, not easily forgotten. -- Junot Diaz
The Boat is tremendous, challenging and ambitious, worthy of the same shelf that holds Dubliners and The Things They Carried-like those works, it asks to be read as a whole and taken seriously as a book... this book nails our collective now, our kairos, with an urgency and relevance that feels visionary. ― * Charles D'Ambrosio *
From the very first page of The Boat, Nam Le's extraordinary talent, range of vision, and moral courage make the reader sit up and take notice. By the last page, one feels a kind of fervent gratitude-rare enough these days-for having been introduced to a young writer whose mark on the literary world, so freshly made, will only grow deeper in the years to come. ― * John Burnham Schwartz *
About the Author
Nam Le was born in Vietnam and raised in Australia. He has received the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Pushcart Prize and the Michener-Copernicus Society of America Award, and fellowships from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and Phillips Exeter Academy. His fiction has been appeared in Best Australian Stories, Best New American Voices, A Public Space, NPR's Selected Shorts and more.
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Top reviews from Australia
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I was delighted to find this book of well-written short stories by Aussie author Nam Le, who arrived here by boat as a refugee from Vietnam when he was only one.
These eight stories are all quite different from each other and Le speaks in many voices from different countries, all believable: Vietnamese, Colombian, Japanese, Iranian, Australian.
I think my favourite is the young Aussie lad in the fishing family with the sick mum. Football, a girl, bullies, a jetty, a struggling dad and younger brother. It’s all there. It’s a short story, but it’s all there. This one is reminiscent of Tim Winton.
That to me is the beauty of a good short story. You are curious about what came before and what might follow, but it isn’t necessary to know.
I don’t know if the first story is autobiographical or not, but Le got his Master’s in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa, and the first story is about a son writing about his Vietnamese father, who has come to visit him at the University of Iowa at an inopportune time when he has writing deadlines to meet. He resents the interruption and the reminders of his father’s history.
A friend says to just write about Vietnam. “Ethnic literature is hot.” His friends talk about exploiting the whole Vietnamese thing. He doesn’t want to, but as he pieces together his father’s story and understands the horrors of the massacre from which he escaped, he feels compelled.
“…all I could do was think about my father and his excuses. Those tattered bodies on top of him. The ten hours he’d waited, mud filling his lungs, until nightfall.”
He has trouble dealing with the contrast between his father’s experiences and his own life. It’s hard to look at this little old man and realise this was “the soldier” who’d raised him and punished him so harshly.
I enjoyed his writing style. About young Colombians, a guy says, “They look younger than I remember. Only Pedro has grown—he looks like he has been seized by a fistful of hair and stretched up two inches.”
About a father desperate to see his daughter who was taken from him as an infant, “The past’s a cold body of water for me and nowadays my bones ache after even a quick dip.”
The Aussie boy is sitting by the shore “shivering. It was like the wind was greased, he thought, it slid right against you, leaving your skin slippery where it touched.”
About swimming he thinks, “it was easy to forget, past the reef, that you were on the edge of the great continental shelf until a rip drifted you out and one of those cold currents snaked up from the depths and brushed its slightest fringe against your body. Then you remembered.”
I haven’t even mentioned the bombs in Tehran or the people in Hiroshima or The Boat, a harrowing story that could also have been his. You’ll just have to read them.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me a copy of these to review. I hope there will be more to follow from this talented writer.
Top reviews from other countries
A su favor puedo decir que está bien redactado con un exquisito vocabulario y las tramas interesantes aunque a mi no me gustara.
No obstante, es un libro que se deja leer. Como son varias historias, si no te gusta una, te gustará la siguiente.
Lo recomendaría para personas, con un alto nivel de Inglés, de lo contrario tiene demasiado vocabulario dficultoso para los no nativos de la lengua.
This brings us back to the very first story - the improbably titled Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice. In this story, the viewpoint character is a Vietnamese writer in the US, being visited by his father. This prompts soul-searching about what it is to be a writer; what it is to have left the culture of your parents and embraced a foreign culture. The writer in the story appears caught between writing a fiction based on experience - set in a boat fleeing Viet Nam - and writing diverse stories that defy expectations. Oh, and the writer in Nam Le's story is apparently named after Viet Nam. Now given that what unfolds is a set of diverse stories culminating in the boat one, we have a fairly obvious, personal piece of self-analysis. Some people will herald this as a provocative act of genius, but others might think it looks a little bit too raw, too crude. The point of fiction, surely, is to tell common truths through analogy, not to simply set out personal philosophy with no attempt made to change identities or situations. But then, at the end, perhaps fiction does take over. Nam Le's father surely wouldn't have done *that*?
As with all collections of short stories, the success depends on whether or not the reader catches hold of particular stories. Different readers will find different highlights. The Colombian rebel story seemed the most intriguing, but the beautifully simple, clear narrative was let down in the end by an ambiguous ending - again, a device that will be to some tastes and not others. But in getting beneath the stereotypical characters, portraying the real people behind the cartoonish roles, Nam Le seems to be at his best.
This is a promising collection of stories if you can get through the wince factor of the first one. The writing is mostly clear and lucid. Nam Le conjures up images and scenes with few words, but with great precision and detail. There is more to the stories than one might imagine from their length and it would be interesting to see what Nam Le could make of a full length narrative.
In the first story Le himself is the main character. He is in the US, Iowa writer’s workshop, when his father visits from Australia. Le struggles to find a way of relating to his father after long absences and is unsure how he will appreciate his work as an author. All the words of the title Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Passion and Sacrifice are explored in this story.
In the second story Cartagena the Hero Ron is trying to extract himself from a dangerous situation in a dangerous city Medellin in Columbia and go to Cartagena. I haven’t been to Medellin and I understand Le hasn’t either. It reads like hell on earth (as does Tehran in another story). I do however understand and appreciate the human side of Ron. His concern for his mother and his mixed relationship with his girl friend are all things that happen across countries and cultures. Other stories relate to relationships between father and daughter, female friends, mother and son and finally two women and one child in a desperate boat journey out of communist Vietnam.
The final story “The Boat” is the most graphic and disturbing. Clearly the boat journey from Vietnam is something Le knows a lot about. It raises questions about the morality of those of us in Australia and other western countries that are now turning their backs on people in such dire situations in need of help.
I normally don’t appreciate short stories, as the limited space does not allow a lot of character development. The Boat collection however is one of the best I have read and I found myself getting very involved with each story.