Hoa Lo - Hanoi Hilton Stories

Hoa Lo - Hanoi Hilton Stories

by Nguyen Chi Thien
Totalitariansm creates hell on earth. In Nguyen Chi Thien, that hell has found its Dante. Hoa Lo/Hanoi Hilton Stories is a tribute to the power of the human spirit over tyranny and of art over oblivion.” -Michael Lind, Senior Whitehead Fellow, the New American FoundationWashington DC
“The austerity, menace, and extremity of long imprisonment under conditions that are calculated to defeat the spirit and body have the capacity to produce great literature….a magical blend of…close observation of one’s constrained surroundings and of one’s interior life together with the lyricism that hopeless situations can, paradoxically, produce.” -James C. Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, Yale University

During the roughly fifteen years spent as a political prisoner in Vietnamese labor camps from 1960 to 1977, Nguyen Chi Thien composed hundreds of poems. Released following the fall of Saigon, Thien delivered a manuscript of these poems to the British Embassy in Hanoi. He was arrested at the gate and taken to Hoa Lo - the well known “Hanoi Hilton” Prison, where he spent six of an additional twelve years of imprisonment, often in solitary confinement. During this time, his collection of vivid poems, known as Hoa Dia-Nguc began to circulate in two Vietnamese editions, and eventually overseas. Some of the poems were set to music and popularized by Vietnamese folksinger, Pham Duy. In 1984, a bilingual edition of the poems, translated into English by Vietnamese literature scholar Huynh Sanh Thong, was published under the title Flowers from Hell by the Council on Southeast Asia Studies at Yale University. In 1985, while it was still unknown if he were alive or dead, Thien was awarded the International Poetry Prize in Rotterdam on the basis of this book. He was released from prison in 1991 and lived in Hanoi until 1995 when he emigrated to the United States. He became a U.S. citizen in 2004.

In 2007, the Yale Council on Southeast Asia Studies undertook publication of a collection of Nguyen Chi Thien’s prose - stories written about his years in Hoa Lo. Poetic testaments to the human spirit, this collection is further legacy of a great literary talent. (See Nguyen Chi Thien obituary, New York Times October 2012).

Yale Southeast Asia Studies Monograph #57

Hoa Lo/Hanoi Hilton Stories, by Nguyen Chi Thien
Foreward by James C. Scott ; Preface by Jean Libby
Translators: Nguyen Ngoc Bich, Tran Van Dien, Vann Saroyan Phan, Nguyen Kiem Phong

$25.00 - Paperback ISBN: 978-0-938692-89-8
$37.00 - Clothbound ISBN: 978-0-938692-88-1*

See Yale Southeast Asia Studies Monographs
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*Cloth bindings are library serial version: no jacket, no cover photo; blank with foil stamp on spine. Paperback includes cover design & photo

Yale Southeast Asia Studies is a non-profit publishing entity at Yale University.

top left: Nguyen Chi Thien, age 39 (Hanoi, 1978); top right: Hallway in cell block of Hanoi Central prison, © 2007 Christopher McCooey; center left: Nguyen Chi Thien at Berkeley College Master’s Tea, Yale University 2005; lower left: Door detail of cell #2 in Hanoi Central Prison, © 2007 Christopher McCooey