Vũ Quốc Thúc – MY EPOCH, My Life Through The Wars

COVER-MY-EPOCHMY EPOCH, My Life Through The Wars“,
Ấn bản Anh ngữ “Thời Ðại Của Tôi”, của tác giả Vũ Quốc Thúc
Việt dịch: Cybelle Chang – Viện Việt Học xuất bản tại Hoa Kỳ
(Bìa: Uyên Nguyên)

FOREWORD

I started writing this memoir around the late part of November 1996, when I was 76 years plus and 2 months old. In the past years, my children as well as my friends always advised me to write about the big events that I saw or were was personally involved in personally. For me, those events do not carry much weight any longer as they are things of the past, but to the younger generation and the outsider looking in now, those events are historical facts, which are helpful to understand the present and future situations of our country.

Those encouragements are dear and wise, but I have been hesitating, because I think memoir writers tend to give their personal life an over-—important range. If so, the norm is finding all aspects to praise oneself, magnifying what seems to be right, and hiding what seems to be weak. The facts are then presented under a biased point of view. I had been trained within the university tradition, and considering that respect for the truth is the first discipline for any scholar, it does not make sense for me to go against that training.

Around late June 1996, something happened and I changed my mind completely. I went to the hospital for a common operation to remove some stones from my bladder. The operation went well but I had some serious side effects afterward. Only then did I comprehend how fragile human life is and suddenly I sensed the deep meaning of what a 76 year old is. Everyday I saw on the news many famous politicians, writers, artists, actors… passing away even though most of them were younger than meI! If I kept hesitating then when would be the right time to start? The work requires a lot of time, maybe up to 3 or 4 years, a different kind of writing than from the essays or reports I often did in the past. If I delayed things further down the road, would I physically and mentally be able to complete the memoir? Upon that thought I decided to start writing.

I chose “ My Epoch” as title of the book. It defines the limits of my book: it is not a history book. History books require scientific and complex research of a skillful historian that I have no intention or capacity to do. In a rather different way, I concentrate on my psychological reactions to the historical events that I lived or witnessed.

The time span I chose to look back and reflect on is 90 years, from 1920, when I was born, to 2010 around the beginning of the 21st century, the third millennium that I hoped I would be blessed to still live in by then.

The memoir is divided into five periods according to historical events in our country in chronological order.

  1. Period one: Before WW II—before September 1939
  1. Period two: From September 1939—the beginning of WW II to September 3rd, 1945—the Japanese Coup in VN
  1. Period three: From September 3rd, 1945—the Japanese Coup to July 20th, 1954—the Geneva Agreements that divided VN into two regions, north and south
  1. Period four: From July 1954 to April 30th, 1975—reunification of VN by the forceful takeover of Hanoi—VN Communist
  1. Period five: From April 30th, 1975: open period to be filled with other events that have happened since the starting date of writing this memoir (1996)

Vũ Quốc Thúc
 Paris 2010

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