Photo by Trần Cao Lĩnh
Dương Nghiễm Mậu was among those intellectuals who, albeit born in the Northern region of Vietnam, emigrated to the Southern region by the year 1954. After settling in Saigon, he worked tirelessly as a writer and as a journalist for several literary outlets in South Vietnam, including Sáng Tạo, Văn, Văn Học, Thế Kỷ 20, and Tin Sáng. He was also a key member in the editorial board of the magazine Văn Nghệ (founded by Lý Hoàng Phong). His notable works were Cũng đành, Nhan sắc, and Gia tài người mẹ, to name but a few.
Dương Nghiễm Mậu’s writing style contrasted with that of the pre-1945 writers in way that he tends to exclude the ornamentation or “euphuism” that dominated the literature of the previous generation. Rather, he presents a straightforward and concise manner, especially when depicting human fate—his conditions and life choices—during the war time.
After 1975, Dương Nghiễm Mậu was suspected of being a “CIA-backed writer” who penetrated the cultural forefront of the communists and poisoned their minds, which we later know was another bunch of bullshit made up by “the victors”.
In 2007, some of his works were republished, after many decades of being censored, thanks to the efforts of the radical publishers and lobbyists. Unfortunately, he was criticized in a more or less systematic way by the conservatives—one of whom used to be his colleague, Vũ Hạnh—accusing him of spreading toxic ideology and refuting the legacy of North Vietnam’s war literature. This event triggered an outrage among his former colleagues and supporters both in Vietnam and in the Vietnamese diaspora communities across the world.