Nguyen Ha Linh
Past Program / 2021 Program / Nguyen Ha Linh
Hello, I am Ha Linh, an editor responsible for Korean books at Nha Nam Publishing in Vietnam. Nha Nam was established in 2005 by a group of literature lovers. 〈Last night I dreamed of peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram〉, a war diary of Dang Thuy Tham, a patriotic martyr who fought in the Vietnam War as a doctor, is the first best selling work of Nha Nam and it was published also in Korea with the title of 〈지난 밤 나는 평화를 꿈꾸었네〉. 〈Last night I dreamed of peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram〉 recorded 500,000 copies on the year of its publication and it served as a catalyst in making the name of Nha Nam known to many Vietnamese readers.
More than 15 years since its establishment, Nha Nam has now become one of the leading publishers in Vietnam. We do our best to have a diversity of genres for our publications. Beyond fictions, Nha Nam has been expanding to publish practical books, economics, history, education categories as well. More and more works from Nha Nam have been being posted on the bestsellers list. Our representative works include Rosie Nguyen’s travelogue 〈How worthwhile is your youth?〉, Dang Hoang Giang’s essay collection 〈Anger does not make me invincible〉, 〈The good, the bad, and smartphone〉 and so on.
And Nha Nam has been constantly making bestsellers also in translated works. They include 〈The alchemist〉 and 〈My sweet orange tree〉 etc. Translated books, especially ones of foreign literature are one of the strengths Nha Nam publishing has. Not only translate, publish, and introduce classics from Europe or America, we do really hope to discover not yet known quality literature from China, Japan and Korea and introduce them to Vietnamese readers.
he book I would like to present among books Nha Nam published which I was part of editing team is 〈About my daughter〉 written by Kim Hye-Jin. The first reason why I picked this book is that it is written by a young writer. For Vietnamese readers who love Korean literature, writers from previous period, such as Shin Kyung-Sook and Gong Ji-Young are already familiar ones. Besides the familiar writers, I wanted to present more ambitious new writers who approach new and unfamiliar problems and get deep into it with new styles of writing to Vietnames readers.
The second reason why I picked this book is the topic and the content that this book deals with. It deals with the topic of female homosexuality with eyes of a mom who has a homosexual daughter. In Vietnam, more and more books are being published on gender and sexual minority (LGBT+) groups. However, still majority of them are on male homosexuality, and there are few books on female homosexuality, they are not yet common. Not a few readers want to know about homosexuality and look for related books though, there are still not many books that deal with female homosexuality. So, after having read this work in Korean, I felt the story of this book could be suitable to publish in Vietnam at this point. I also thought the story of this book could give touch and empathy to many readers, especially those who belong to the gender and sexual minority groups.
The fact that it was written from a mother’s point of view is also a unique feature this book has. That allows readers, especially younger readers to look at the issue of homosexuality from multiple perspectives. That also helps a wider audience like our parent’s generation to access this book and understand the lives of today’s young people, it’s because this book sees the issue of homosexuality from a mother’s point of view.
Moreover, although it is written about the issue of female homosexuality, the heart of this book is family love. It is a matter of how the family accepts this issue, understands the feelings, and how to live together in the same house as a family. I thought this could fit into the life of many Vietnamese people who value warm affection and for that reason, I thought this book would be welcomed by many Vietanmese readers as well.
And the last but not least reason is that it is a bestseller in Korea. I saw over 400 readers’ reviews of this book on Naver Book and I thought there must be reasons why it is widely read by readers.
I found out this book 〈About my daughter〉 through Naver Book and large online bookstore sites such as YES24 or Kyobo Book Centre. These websites provide readers with regular updates on the list of books that are selling well by genre, week and year so that I can find out which books are popular and loved by Korean readers. In addition, there I can also search and discover new works and emerging writers who are having impacts on Korean literature.
In addition to the websites mentioned earlier, I also often use social networking sites such as Instagram and Twitter. Since most Korean large publishers are actively promoting their books on social networking sites, I can easily get the latest information on Korean books. To be more specific, I first go to Instagram or Twitter and search by # tags whenever I get interested in a certain book. After some search, I read reviews of Korean readers and collect more data to accurately evaluate whether the book is suitable to publish in Vietnam.
Apart from Instagram and Twitter, I also use Goodreads which is currently the largest social networking site related to books. Through Goodreads, I get the latest information on those books that have already been translated and published abroad. There, I can also find out the current interest and preference for Korean books and authors in the international market. And, I get information on quality books by other channels such as agencies, annual book fairs, general readers and translators as well.
Perhaps the biggest difficulty in editing and translating Korean books is the linguistic part. The most difficult part is how to flexibly translate the Korean words to Vietnamese ones without losing their unique nuances of Korean.
Still, there are more interesting things than difficult ones. Perhaps the greatest pleasure is being able to experience Korean culture, Korean people and Korean images on a completely different level from those commonly encountered through popular culture products in everyday life. And another interesting thing is that I can get to know more and better about talented Korean writers and their works that many people do not know yet. The other interesting thing while translating and editing Korean books is I can learn a lot of new words and slangs that are not found in dictionaries. This is because those are words that can be derived from experience only in a special linguistic environment that can be read in books.
I can say that the reader’s response to 〈About my daughter〉 has been positive. You can find positive reviews and high rating for the book with ease on social networking sites – Goodreads, Instagram and Facebook. And it has great support from readers belonging to the LGBT+ community. It often comes up on the list of recommended books on homosexual topics.
If I look at the recent reader’s response to Korean books in gㅁeneral, it is clear that a group of fans who love Korean books is getting formed in Vietnam. Vietnamese readers like Korean books especially with family topics. Most of Nha Nam’s bestselling Korean books are family themed books. For example, 〈Please look after mom〉 by Shin Kyung-Sook, 〈Stickleback〉 by Cho Chang-In, 〈My brilliant life〉 by Kim Ae-Ran are all about family. This fact can be easily understood as both Korea and Vietnam have fairly similar emotional bonds with each other and place a high value on their families.
Lately not only novels, but also essays and self-help books are getting more and more popular among readers. Representㅁatively, the two books by Haemin Sumin – 〈The things you can see only when you slow down〉 and 〈Love for imperfect things〉 have been consecutively on the bestseller list. More, works that have won awards overseas like Han Kang’s representative work, are also attracting Vietnamese readers’ attention. After winning the Man Booker International Prize for 〈The vegetarian〉, Han Kang’s sequels have been receiving lots of attention not only by Korean literature lovers but also general readers.
Vietnamese readers’ interest in Korean books became evident after the influence of the Hallyu wave, and their interest in Korean books can be explained in three aspects. First, people are having more interest in Korean books thanks to the K-pop culture. When young readers who love K-pop culture, find out their favorite K-pop stars have read this book or that book, then they tend to look for the same books that their K-pop stars have read. They do not read the book simply because they want to be like their favorite stars, but because they want to learn the same things that the stars learned through the book, and they want to get the touches the stars felt. The most representative example is 〈Almond〉 by Son Won-Pyung. The book was widely read by BTS fans in Vietnam after BTS members had read that book.
Second, people tend to look for books that are published after movies or dramas got popular. There are more and more cases being remade into movies or dramas based on novels in Korea. When these movies are released and get popular by many movie fans in Vietnam, people want to read the original works to compare the movies or dramas. Even if not for that case, some fans want to have the books simply because they like the movies.
Third, people tend to have more interest on the books if names or contents of the books are mentioned in the mass media. For instance, it is the case if some passages of books are used for songs, or any book names are mentioned in the movies. So those who like the movies or songs, love to find and read the books to understand better the movies and songs they like.
So far Nha Nam has published many Korean novels. And now we hope to publish a collection of short stories. The book I read recently and want to edit is 〈Cursed Bunny〉, a collection of short stories by Chung Bora. This book is translated into English and has been receiving good reviews by readers on Goodreads. This book 〈Cursed Bunny〉 is a collection of short stories of various genres including SF, fantasy, and horror. Each story is unique and creative. Besides that, I also hope a collection of short stories by Hwang Jung-Eun to be published. I think Hwang Jung-Eun is a very good short story writer in Korea.
Missing the twelve months / Nha Nam Publishing
I would like to present these two works written by Vietnamese authors among books Nha Nam published. The first one is 〈Missing the twelve months〉, a collection of prose by Vũ Bằng. This book was selected as part of a collection 〈The masterpieces of Vietnam〉, which carefully selected as the most famous works representing the essence of Vietnamese literature. This is a book expresses feelings of a person who has gone far away from his hometown and shows unique scenery, weather, food, and monthly customs of Hanoi through 12 months of a year.
Black Ocean / Nha Nam Publishing
The second book I would like to present is 〈Black Ocean〉 by Đặng Hoàng Giang. It was recently published. It deals with psychological issues, and I think Korean readers will also be interested. This book is composed of 2 parts. The first part tells 12 stories of 12 characters, each of whom suffers from emotional abuse due to depression. The second half provides readers with a theoretical background that can help them understand psychology. The author explains psychological knowledge in great detail and also provides very specific ways to help. Another characteristic of this book is that it is beautifully designed with very impressive illustrations and drawings that fit well with descriptions.