German translator longs to promote Vietnamese literature

Friday, 2019-04-05 11:33:41
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Prof., Dr. Gunter Giesenfeld
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NDO – Prof., Dr. Gunter Giesenfeld, Chairman of the Germany-Vietnam Friendship Association, is a famous German writer and translator. Since his first visit to Vietnam in 1976, he has returned the country 21 times and has translated a number of Vietnamese literary works into German, including those penned by President Ho Chi Minh, celebrated writer Nguyen Dinh Thi and poet Che Lan Vien.

Giesenfeld has been awarded three medals by the Vietnamese Government in recognition of his contributions to boosting solidarity and friendship among the people of the two countries as well as for the introduction and promotion of Vietnamese literature to Germany and German-speaking communities around the world.

Most recently in September 2018, he returned to Vietnam with a special attention being attached on the rapid change in Vietnamese lifestyle and culture. During his visits to Vietnam, in addition to attending literary workshops, meetings and gatherings with writers, he also spends time wandering streets in the old quarters and enjoying street foods, such as pho and bun (Vietnamese noodles), com rang (stir dried rice), and milk coffee. He is also interested in exchanging in talks with locals and visiting watch shops in order to enrich his own hand watch collection.

Not only working as a translator of Vietnamese literary works, Giesenfeld has also produced three documentary films: on Vietnam’s post-war education, General Vo Nguyen Giap, and his train travel across Vietnam on the main south-north line.

Recalling his memories about the production of these films, he said his meeting with General Vo Nguyen Giap was the most impressive. Although the meeting was scheduled to last for only 30 minutes it was extended to two hours.

The documentary on the north-south train also left deep impressions on him. In 1984, Giesenfeld and cameraman Luong Dung made the documentary on a train, and they invited passengers to their carriage for interviews. Many interesting stories were told, which surprised both passengers and the film crew.

When the train reached Hai Van pass, Giesenfeld had to hold Dung tightly so that the cameraman could reach out of the door train to record the scene when the train made a tightly spectacular curve up to the pass.

Meetings with Vietnamese writers and intellectuals have provided Giesenfeld with valuable reference about Vietnamese history and strengthened his connection with the Southeast Asian country. The meetings also brought him an opportunity to work as a coordinator of a project on the compilation of a book on history of Vietnamese literature.

In 2000, as the Chairman of Germany – Vietnam Friendship Association, Giesenfeld invited a delegation of Vietnamese writers to Germany to introduce their books. The delegation had 20 meetings with readers in 15 German cities and provinces.

He has also come into contact with Vietnamese writers and poets, whose selected works have been translated and published in Vietnam Kurier magazine in Germany. His work has offered German readers a look into Vietnamese contemporary literature and writers, as well as the country’s culture and lifestyle.

Since he first visited Vietnam more than four decades ago, Giesenfeld has fallen into Vietnamese land and people and he has found a wonderful way to express his attachment to the country through introducing and advertising Vietnamese literature to German and German-speaking readers.

In 2019, he and his translation group are translating literary works by acclaimed Vietnamese writer Duong Huong. He plans to return Vietnam in order to visit Huong’s hometown, where the writer was born and spent his childhood.

The village was also set as the background for Huong to pen his 1991 novel ‘Ben Khong Chong’ (The Habour of Husbandless Women), which was awarded the Vietnamese Writers’ Association award the same year.