Ho Anh Thai

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Written and spoken word (anthology, novel)
created on:
July 25, 2003
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Ho Anh Thai
© Morten Skeldal Østergaard


Outspoken Vietnamese voice

Ho Anh Thai is a Vietnamese writer and experienced diplomat. He published his first short story when he was still in high school. When the editors accepted that story, they did not know the author was only 17. Born in 1960, Thai was evacuated from Hanoi to escape American bombs when he was a child and lived in refuge areas in the countryside between 1966 and 1973. During the last five years, Thai has participated in conferences, festivals etc. in Northern America, Australia and Sweden in his capacity as fiction writer.
Ho Anh Thai is one of Vietnams most outstanding voices.

On the cutting edge of the post-war generation of Vietnamese writers, Ho Anh Thai is known for his bitingly sharp and gently whimsical fiction.

He is one of Vietnam´s most prolific writers and winner of several of its most prestigious literary awards starting at an early age; his work was published in the leading literary magazines while still in high school. The author of more than 20 books, he is also a diplomat who served in India and the Middle East.

Ho Anh Thai currently lives in Hanoi where he is the editor of World Affairs Weekly and a member of the Hanoi Writers Association. In the fall of 1998 he was writer-in-residence at the University of Washington in Seattle.

"Good writing allows you to see life through someone else´s filter. In Ho Anh Thai´s case, the universality of his characters give us the ability to bridge the differences between us", said a colleague named Karlin.

"Behind the Red Mist," a novella from which the collection´s title comes, is about a teenager in 1987 who experiences an electric shock and is transported back in time 20 years to wartime Vietnam shortly before his parents´ marriage.

Behind the Red Mist,´ a best-seller in Vietnam, seems to express a yearning by the post-war generation to look through the mist of heroic myth and authority that shrouds the generation of the war, not to debunk but to examine its own origins clearly.

This is a group of contemporary stories from Vietnam, a country not normally heard from in the fiction world.

One story is about an Indian man (several stories are set in India) who promised his dead mother that he would never leave her alone. He falls for a British woman who brings him to England as the family cook. Not wanting to break his promise to his mother, he digs her up and carries her bones in a knapsack.

Another story is about a Vietnamese party official who turns into a goat while watching a porno film.

To create a tourist attraction for his poor village, a man asks the director of the local factory for a million rupees to build a great temple. Not wanting to take no for an answer, the man chooses a spot on the road that the director must pass twice a day, and stands on one leg, all day, every day, in search of that million rupees.

An Indian woman is a nursing student, until her family says that it´s time to get married. Her family barely manages to pay the huge dowry demanded by the groom´s family, but the groom seems worth the trouble. The woman, named Neelam, and her mother-in-law don´t get along at all. One day, Neelam is severely burned in an act of bride violence. She is sent back to her home village, though no one recognises her. Whenever a woman in the village gives birth to a girl, Neelam is there to quietly take the child away and dispose of it.

This is an excellent group of stories about a different (to most Americans) part of the world and different culture. They are serious and whimsical, very well done and very much worth reading.
Author: Karin Bergquist


1960: Ho Anh Thai was born October 18th, Hanoi, Vietnam.

He graduated from high school in 1977 and then studied at the College of Diplomacy, earning his bachelor´s degree in 1983. He was drafted and served in the Army for three years until he entered the Foreign Ministry.

During his career as a diplomat, he studied in Australia and India and earned an advanced degree in oriental culture in New Delhi in 1991. Five of the stories in his book "Red Mist" are set in India.

- M.A. in International Studies.
- Ph.D. in Oriental Culture.

- Diplomat, working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hanoi.
- Senior editor, International Affairs Review, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 6 - Chu Van An, Hanoi.
- Novelist, Secretary General of the Hanoi Writers´ Association, 19 - Hang Buom, Hanoi.

- Worked in Vietnamese Embassies in India from 1991 to 1994, in Iran from 1993 to 1994.
- Participant in Vietnam Update, seminar held by the Australian National University, Canberra, December 1996.
- Participant in World Conference on Culture, Stockholm, Sweden, March & April 1998.
- Participant in International Festival of Authors, Toronto, Canada, November 1998.
- Visiting lecturer, University of Washington, Seattle, USA, September to December 1998.
- Participant in Sydney Writers´ Festival, Sydney, Australia, May 1999.
- Participant in the First Meet of the South East Asian Writers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, October 2001.

Ho Anh Thai has written more than 20 books, published in France, UK and USA.


Love after War

Published Written,
Anthology of the Vietnamese Contemporary Short Stories, co-editor and contributor, Curbstone Press.

Aventures en Inde

Published Written,
Kailash Editions, Paris, France.

The Women on the Island

Published Written,
A novel, published by University of Washington Press, London and Seattle, USA.

Behind the Red Mist

Published Written,
Short fiction, published by Curbstone Press, USA.

L´ile Aux Femmes

Published Written,
Editions de l´Aube, France.


- First Prize, short story contest of Van Nghe (Literature and Arts) newspaper, the most prestigious literary newspaper in Vietnam, 1984.
- Novel Award, Vietnam Writers´ Association & Vietnam Trade Union, 1990.
- Book Award, Vietnam Union of Literature and Art Associations, 1995.
- Book Award, Vietnam Writers´ Association, 2001 (the author refused to take it).


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Images of Asia

(08 August 03 - 26 September 03)