Aspiration to resume connection

The main them of the exchange focus on the literature for young readers and teenagers in Vietnam and Russia, issues related to generations and transmission of cultural codes through the literature. Vietnamese representatives participating in the event were writers Nguyen Quang Thieu (Chairman of Vietnam Writers’ Association), Nguyen Thuy Anh, Nguyen Xuan Thuy, Phong Diep, Van Thanh Le, Kieu Bich Hau, and Nguyen Thi Kim Hoa. The organisers, including PrimaMedia Media Group and leaders from the Russian World Foundation, Far Eastern branch, shared their excitement as they could connect and talk with Vietnamese friends.

Looking back, up to the 80s of last century, Russian literature was still selected for printing by many Vietnamese publishers. Literary exchanges had been maintained quite often. The Soviet Union’s Gorky University of Writing (now Maxim Gorky Institute of Literature and Creative Writing) welcomed many Vietnamese writers to study. However, due to objective circumstances and historical fluctuations, the connection and exchange between Vietnamese and Russian literatures have been somewhat sparse. Contemporary Russian literature has become increasingly absent from Vietnam’s literary life.

At the exchange, writer Andrei Ghelasimov, who won the prestigious Apollon Grigoriev Prize in 2003 and the best-selling Russian book award in 2019, shared: “This is the first time I have met writers. Our understanding of each other is still too little. We have a lot of work to do in the near future.”

Giving opportunities to younger generations

Paying special attention to literature for youths and teenagers, Andrei said many writers have been so busy with adult problems that they forget to write for children. Some people thought that matters of children, especially teenagers, are simply physiological changes in age that will disappear over time. This puts young people at risk of losing their true voice.

In Vietnam, the situation has been somewhat better. According to writer Phong Diep, member of the Children’s Literature Council under the Vietnam Writers’ Association, the force of writers for children has been regularly replenished with the participation of many young authors in addition to famous ones. Vietnam has attached great importance to fostering the new generation of writers through various forms such as creation campaigns, training courses and writing contests on children. Thanks to these activities, many talents have been detected and trained by well-known writers.

Russia has also paid much attention to fostering young writers to avoid the breakdown in terms of generations. Writer Vyacheslav Konovalov, President of the “Literature of Pacific Russia” Festival, said the state has been implementing many projects and programmes to find and develop young literary talents. Their works have facilitated by publishing houses. The goal is to build a new generation of writers in the future. Roman Kosynghin, Editor-in-chief of Russia’s 100-year-old Molodaya Gvardiya (Young Guard) Publishing House, noted that in addition to support from Russian State, publishers have also been active in creating the most favourable conditions for young authors to promote their talent.

Paving the way for future

At the exchange, Chairman of Vietnam Writers’ Association Nguyen Quang Thieu said the association has been developing a long-term strategy for children’s literature. The association launched an annual official award for children’s literature for the first time, equal to other awards. The first campaign was also organised to call on writers to compose literary works for children.

The Russian – Vietnamese literature exchange was also a good beginning for the development of children’s literature in the future. Writer and poet Nguyen Quang Thieu officially invited Russian writers to Hanoi for larger seminars and plans on children’s literature, contributing to promoting exchange activities in the field of literature between the two countries more deeply. Writer Kieu Bich Hau, a member of the Translation Council under the Vietnam Writers’ Association proposed a bilateral memorandum of understanding on the cooperation between Vietnam and Russia, particularly in translation to introduce, publish and promote literary works from both countries.

Aleksandr Zubritski, Director of Far Eastern branch of Russian World Foundation, and Vyacheslav Konovalov expressed their agreement with the proposals from the Vietnamese side. Both two sides expressed their belief that this meeting will be the new beginning for the cooperation and practical exchanges of experience among the writers in the near future.