This blog will touch on the experiences I have as a writer (not to be mistaken for my experience as a writer, i.e. how many books I've written, etc); the pleasure and the pain, the joy and the grief, the satisfaction and the frustration, the magic and the reality - have I left anything out, oh yeah, the rejection, rejection and more rejection, the humiliation and the embarrassment, the jealousy and the resentment - that pretty much covers it, except for why I do it which perhaps I'll realize along the way. Are you totally confused? Good, let's begin.
Percival Chen is headmaster of a school that teaches English to Vietnamese in Cholon, a suburb of Saigon.
It is the early 1960’s and business is good as an ever-growing presence of American military personnel in the country means there is an increasing need for translators.
Chen is a weak individual, a gambler and whore-monger while at the same time pompous and arrogant. Because of his vices and his pride he is incapable of making a realistic assessment of unfolding events and his changing circumstances.
And events are indeed unfolding, momentous and violent ones, dramatically and rapidly.
The war in Vietnam is coming to a bloody climax and neighbouring China is in the throes of the Cultural Revolution.
Authentic, credible characters give the reader a different perspective of this tumultuous time through a man and his family caught in the middle of it.
Vincent Lam has created a masterful plot full of unexpected twists and turns though none seem impractical or forced as the reader harkens back to revelations earlier in the narrative that were carefully embedded by the author.
This is a big story that embraces powerful issues like culture, family, love and betrayal, loyalty, war, espionage, profiteering and politics, yet it never falters.
One of the few novels that has been truly worthy of the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize.