Chronologie des histoires et mémoires de la diaspora vietnamienne

Ne faudrait-il pas faire une synthèse des informations et des ressources qui nous permettent de mieux comprendre l’histoire de la diaspora vietnamienne ? Et dans le même mouvement proposer de rassembler les productions scientifiques et artistiques qui traitent de ces mémoires ?
C’est un travail ambitieux, mais il faut bien commencer quelque part !

C’est un travail non exhaustif, en cours de réalisation. Pour toutes suggestions, utilisez la section commentaires ! Continuer la lecture de Chronologie des histoires et mémoires de la diaspora vietnamienne

Habiter au Vietnam pour se décoloniser – Pascal Huynh

Peut-on perdre sa langue maternelle ? Pour de nombreux enfants issus de l’immigration au Québec, le français prend le dessus dans leur quotidien, jusqu’à faire d’eux des bilingues passifs — c’est-à-dire qu’ils peuvent comprendre la langue de leurs parents, mais sans être capables de la parler. Le Devoir vous présente les portraits de Québécois qui ont voulu se la réapproprier. Aujourd’hui : le parcours de Pascal Huynh, d’origine vietnamienne.

Article à lire sur :

https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/791635/langue-maternelle-habiter-au-vietnam-pour-se-decoloniser

 

Emilie Tôn’s debut novel [EN]

Des rêves d’or et d’acier is a novel written by Emilie Tôn, published at the end of 2022 by a small, emerging publishing house, Hors d’atteinte, which describes itself as feminist and wants to contribute to emancipatory struggles. As I was finishing writing my thesis on family memory issues among people of Vietnamese origin, this biography of a Cham Vietnamese refugee in eastern France, compiled and written by his daughter, obviously caught my attention. While it’s clearly not the first testimony of its kind, what interests me is both the book as a narrative and the act of writing down the memory, especially as it is staged.

Passing on dreams and hopes

The book recounts the exile of the main character, Liêm, from Vietnam to France, through Cambodia and Thailand. Between the gold symbolising carefree childhood and the steel referring to the factories in Lorraine, we follow the misfortunes, hopes and tragic fate of one man, one family and millions of refugees. The progression is chronological and geographical. The first part takes us to pre-1975 Vietnam through the eyes of a child, the second takes us through Cambodia and dwells on life in the refugee camps in Thailand, while the final part brings us into the daily life of the immigrant man that the child has become.

Although the story is constructed like a novel, the author is also present as the narrator, and the back and forth between the third-person action and the personal incisions add a very pleasant rhythm. The many passages in italics take us outside of the plot, behind the scenes of the writing, close to the author, who is seen as much as a daughter as an investigator. One might think that Liêm’s itinerary would be enough to make a novel, so many adventures and twists give consistency to the narrative. However, the book is also a reflection on the importance of memory and its impact on the current lives of younger generations. The author says that what motivates her is to explore the life of her father, “this anonymous hero”, in order to better understand who he is today, particularly in his fathering skills. In this way, the narrative becomes the subject of a personal memory that is scrutinised, for example, from the point of view of mental health. Finally, although the author-narrator is in the background, she subtly questions her own destiny, her own trajectory within the family line and within her father’s migratory journey. Ultimately, the question of the place of parents and second generations is always there, as an implicit and sometimes explicit issue when Émilie confides about her doubts about pursuing higher education because of her social background. The book looks at how dreams and hopes are passed on.

Narrative identities

The story begins with a description of a television sequence, which is not trivial. The writing is very direct, effective and precise, leading readers to question their own judgement. Is this linked to the fact that the author is a journalist? I simply notice how easily the images come to us when we read. The descriptions are there to set the scene against which the actions unfold. In a way, the book is written like a film. The cinematic style questions the way we perceive the narrative and the story. The author herself says that it was through Hollywood that she first discovered the war. The way we think about the history of Vietnam and periods of war, even through family accounts, is inevitably imbued with this American imagination. It is precisely for this reason that we need to propose other narratives, other stories to rethink history.

This great history, the backdrop to the father’s adventures, is finely recounted and documented to enable an uninformed audience to grasp the political issues that underpin the situations described. From this point of view, it is the rigour and journalistic precision that give the novel an educational dimension, or make it accessible in any case. This documentary dimension raises questions about the value placed on testimony and the place of personal memory. As Sabine Huynh writes in Elvis à la radio about her childhood memories and memory in general, the true and the false are always mixed up. Our memories are constantly being reproduced, recomposed and rewritten. But this should not weaken the stories, which are always in some way sincere, faithful to the moments in which they are told. This is where the work of history is necessary, in order to compose, from different sources, what is true or at least plausible.

From a sociological point of view, the narrative is first and foremost about the person telling it, insofar as that person is telling themselves. As a novel, the father is a character we seek to understand in the construction of himself, in his choices and in the way in which history and the societies through which he passes condition his trajectory, how he fights for his free will. The memories he recounts, imprecise or incomplete, reflect the imperfection of the person he is, and convey his “truth”. In this respect, the character is a good illustration of the concept of narrative identity developed by Paul Ricœur, i.e. the idea that we are only what we want to tell others and ourselves about ourselves. To say this is not to delegitimise history, but to question our relationship to truth and fiction, at a time in the creative process when works ‘drawn from a true story’ are received differently from works of pure fiction.

Singular and universal fates

This book also deals with the dynamics of memory transmission. It is often said that Asian people in general don’t talk, don’t confide, and this trait is attributed both to the culture perceived as “Confucian” and to the psychology of trauma. Here, we have a fine counter-example in the form of a father who “likes to tell stories” and is critical of the notion of trauma as a “French thing”, even though without him, of course, the story on which the book is based would never have come into being. The question I asked myself in my work on the sociology of the transmission of identity was rather how to liberate and circulate this voice. What are the conditions that encourage the circulation of stories between parents and children?

Of course, not everyone is as talkative as her father, and not everyone has the ability to collect oral memory and turn it into a book. But in our generation there is a growing desire to tell the stories of our forebears and loved ones before they get lost.

Returning to the homeland is crucial to understanding memories and anecdotes. Here too, like a whole generation born abroad, Emilie Tôn discovers a territory, rediscovers the culture, the local cuisine and then a certain way of staging the memory. As in Mai’s self-published graphic novel Vê, in which she recounts her return, visits to national museums are an opportunity to approach other discourses, other narratives, to confront other images and other imaginaries with which there was a distance. The experience of returning is crucial, as the author writes in black and white: “I was nineteen at the time, visiting Vietnam for the first time, and what I saw left me speechless”. Her internship in Cambodia gave her a little time to explore the region, and the territory, the site of a collective memory, was the perfect alibi for getting the father to talk:

“The mood is one of confidence. I try to project myself into my father’s story, to follow in his footsteps. I ask him:

– Has Cambodia always been like this?

– You can’t even imagine.

In this novel, we read, feel and sense the closeness of a father and daughter. However, while writing may appear to be the best pretext for transmission, we must be wary of idealising postures. When she wants to share information about a specific time and place in her exile, her enthusiasm for unravelling the past contrasts with his desire to forget about it. “I hasten to share this interesting information with my father. But he doesn’t understand my approach: “I never wanted to be there. Why would you want to go?

This novel is one in a series of works by new generations of people of immigrant descent in the broadest sense. It reflects the spirit of an era, of young people seeking to make the most of a dense and complex heritage that combines national history, family memory, cultural traditions and new perspectives on racial identity, family and intergenerational relations, transmission and all that goes with it.

We still more or less know the broad outlines of national histories. With stories like this one, or like the recent graphic novel Sống by Mai Anh and Pauline Guitton, or the books by Marcelino Truong and Clément Baloup before him, we immerse ourselves in the materiality of the past based on concrete, embodied lives, and let ourselves be affected by destinies that are always both singular and universal.

Emilie Tôn, Des rêves d’or et d’acier, Hors d’atteinte, 2022, 400 pages