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Chapter summaries

In Whose Eyes

Differences between the Vietnamese and English editions

1. Title

The original title of In Whose Eyes was “Chuyện Nghề Của Thủy,” which might be translated as “The Professional Affairs of Thủy,” or, more idiomatically, as “Thủy’s Craft.”

The inside of the Vietnamese English edition of “In Whose Eyes”.

The inside of the Vietnamese edition of In Whose Eyes.

2. Overall Structure

Instead of twenty-one chapters with titles, the original book consisted of twenty-nine untitled chapters, as well as some front and back material. The English book divides its twenty-one chapters into four sections: “War,” “Peace,” “To the Ends of All the Seas,” and “The Labyrinth.” The original book did not have these subdivisions. In the English edition each of the four sections has a prefatory essay by Wayne Karlin; nothing of this nature appeared in the original edition. In the English edition, some of the original front and back material appears in a concluding section entitled “Epilogue.”

In the Vietnamese edition, each chapter is preceded by some lines of text quoted from the chapter that follows. These quoted lines are all eliminated in the English edition.

3. Relationship of Original Chapters to Translated Chapters

Front Material: In the original book the front material consisted of:

  1. “A Few Comments to Share”: This was a brief (one page) comment, both introductory and dedicatory in nature, by Trần Văn Thủy. In the translation the first paragraph appears as a dedication; the rest is omitted.
  2. “A Few Words of Explanation”: This was an account by the co-author Lê Thanh Dũng concerning the formation process of the book. This essay is omitted in the translation.
  3. “A Drop Makes the Cup Overflow”: After some brief words of introduction, this contains a short essay essay in English by Dean Wilson, an American Film Scholar, concerning a series of interviews that he conducted with Trần Văn Thủy from September, 2011 to February 2012. The essay is followed, in Vietnamese, by some of Wilson’s questions, together with Thủy’s responses. The title refers to the fact that these interviews were what first caused Trần Văn Thủy to think about producing a set of memoirs. This segment is omitted in the translation.
  4. “Some Words From Uncle Dũng for Thu Hương, Thủy’s Daughter.” Here, as the title indicates, the coauthor Lê Thanh Dũng addresses some words to Thủy’s daughter concerning the significance of her father’s experiences, and those of other people in his generation. In the translation, this appears in the back of the book as “A Few Words to Thủy’s Daughter,” the first item in the Epilogue.
  5. (untitled) This had a photo of Trần Văn Thủy at age thirteen mugging for a camera at a photo shop where he had just been apprenticed. A brief narrative appears underneath the photo. Both the photo and the narrative are omitted in the English edition.

Chapter 1, concerning the author’s boyhood, largely corresponds to Chapter One (“The Swimmer”) in the translation. “The Swimmer,” however begins with a story about “Auntie Nhuân” that originally appeared not in Chapter One, but near the beginning of Chapter 20.

Chapter 2, concerning the period in which the author worked as anthropologist in the remote and mountainous far west of Vietnam corresponds to Chapter Two (“The Measuring Stick and the Mirror”) in the translation. The original chapter is a third-person narrative recounted by the co-author Lê Thanh Dũng. In the translation it is made into a first-person narrative in the voice of Trần Văn Thủy.

Chapter 3, concerning the author’s first training in cinematography and his recruitment as a soldier, corresponds to Chapter Three (“Do You Feel Honored?”) in the translation. The original chapter, however ends with an anecdote from a later period illustrating the popular dislike of communist bureaucrats. This episode appears much later in the translation as Chapter 19 (“An Unpleasant Occurence”)

Chapter 4, concerning the author’s journey south to the warfront, corresponds to Chapter Four (“Going South”) in the translation.

Chapter 5, concerning the author’s initial experiences at the warfornt, corresponds to Chapter Five (“Rebirth”) in the translation.

Chapter 6, which relates further experiences of the author at the warfront, and ends with a long reminiscence concerning another war photographer, corresponds to Chapter Six (“The Beauty and the Bullet”) in the translation.

Chapter 7, concerning the author’s return to Hanoi, accomplished when he was desperately ill, corresponds to Chapter Seven (“Carrying the War Home”) in the translation.

Chapter 8, concerning the author’s reunion with his fiancée in Hanoi, his gradual recuperation, and the almost insuperable difficulties encountered in developing the film he had shot in the south, corresponds to Chapter Eight (“An Uneasy Homecoming”) in the translation. The Enlish chapter includes some additional material written by the author at the translators’ and editor’s request concerning his reunion with the woman who was to become his wife.

Chapter 9, consisting of letters sent to him from a close comrade at the front, corresponds to Chapter Nine (“Letters From the Fire”) in the translation.

Chapter 10, concerning the author’s three-year sojourn in Moscow as a cinematography student corresponds to Chapter Ten (“The Tran-Siberian Express”) in the translation.

Chapter 11, concerning the creation of the film Hanoi In Whose Eyes corresponds to Chapter Eleven (“Hanoi in Whose Eyes”) in the translation.

Chapter 12, concerning the political controversies created by Hanoi In Whose Eyes corresponds to Chapter Twelve (“Untie the Bonds of Writers and Artists”) in the translation.

Chapter 13: This consists mostly of a transcription of the narrator’s words in The Story of Kindness. This is omitted, but some introductory words at the beginning are transferred to Chapter 13 (“The Story of Kindness”) in the translation.

Chapter 17: This recounts Thủy’s experiences in France and Germany in the mid 1980s. Though omitted in the translation, some material is transferred to Chapter 15 (“Kindness Abroad”).

Chapter 18: This chapter concerns the financial aspects of filmmaking in Vietnam and recount a number of anecdotes. The chapter is entirely omitted in the translation.

Chapter 19: This chapter concerns Thủy’s tour of the United States in 2003 and the events that impelled him to write If You Go To the Ends of All the Seas. It is omitted in the translation.

Chapter 20: This long chapter is also concerned with the book If You Go To the Ends of All the Seas, and has five parts: 1) an introductory letter by Trần Văn Thủy, 2) a recollection of a childhood conversation with “Auntie Nhuận,” 3) an account of Thủy’s reunion with Nguyễn Hữu Đính, a childhood friend who after moving to the South with his family became a soldier in the army of the southern republic, 4) an account of the concerning the creation of the film Blind Wise Men Examining an Elephant about Vietnamese emigres in Europe, including especially an account of a visit with the scholar Hoáng Xuân Hãn and his wife in Paris, and 5) an interview with the expatriate writer Cao Xuân Huy. Of these five segments, the first is omitted, the second, about Auntie Nhuân, is transferred to the beginning of Chapter 1 (“The Swimmer”), and the third, about Nguyễn Hữu Đính is retained as Chapter 17 (“A Letter”). Segments 4 and 5 are both omitted.

Chapter 21: This chapter recounts different aspects of Thủy’s tour of the United States in 2003. Most of this material appears in the translation, somewhat rearranged, in Chapter 18 (“A Birth”).

Chapter 22: This is a brief chapter concerning problems to be faced in achieving reconciliation between Vietnamese who belonged to opposite sides during the war. This chapter is omitted in the translation.

Chapter 23: This concerns the making of the film The Sound of a Violin at Mỹ Lai. It appears in the translation, with additional material elicited from the author, as Chapter 16 (“A Violin at Mỹ Lai”). Some words acknowledging the contributions of various collaborators are excised and put into a concluding section, “Acknowledgements.”

Chapter 24: This recounts the author’s first enounter and subsequent experiences with the former marine, novelist, and editor Wayne Karlin. In the translation, this material appears near the beginning under the heading “A Friendship” just after Karlin’s general introduction to the whoile book. Some additional reminiscences concerning film conferences in the US are omitted.

Chapter 25: This concerns the author’s imaginative involvement with the spiritual world and with spritual world in general. This is mostly omitted in the translation, but a concluding section on the broadminded government official Trần Độ, appears in the translation as Chapter 20 (“Immense Sorrow is Forbidden”). Also few other elements in this chapter appear here and there in Karlin’s prefaces.

Chapter 26: This consists of transcripts of several interviews with the author. It is omitted in the translation.

Chapter 27: This recounts some interactions between the author and some US documentary filmmakers. It is omitted in the translation.

Chapter 28: This concerns literature as an element in documentary films and contains observations concerning several modern Vietnamese literary figures. It is omitted in the translation.

Chapter 29: This concerns the nature of patriotism and the repression of freedom in Vietnam, which is illustrated by a number of anecdotes. Most of this chapter appears in the translation as Chapter 21 (“The Language of My Land”).

Back Material: In the original, this consisted of a single item: two pages of reflections by the co-author Lê Thanh Dũng entitled “Concluding Words for This Book.” This appears in the translation as the second item under the Hdading “Epilogue” and is entitled simply “Final Words.”

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