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Paradise of the Blind

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,146 Ratings  ·  132 Reviews
Paradise of the Blind is an exquisite portrait of three Vietnamese women struggling to survive in a society where subservience to men is expected and Communist corruption crushes every dream. Through the eyes of Hang, a young woman in her twenties who has grown up amidst the slums and intermittent beauty of Hanoi, we come to know the tragedy of her family as land reform r ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 20th 2002 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1988)
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Jul 03, 2014 James rated it really liked it
Banned in Vietnam Paradise of the Blind is an emotionally charged, elegant and fruitful novel. Dương Thu Hương charts the troubled life of Hang as she navigates her current life as a textile worker in a Russian factory with the disillusioned experiences of her childhood in Hanoi. Dương's writing is spiritually evocative, filled with joy and rambling descriptions of rural Vietnam life, eschewing the focus away from fanatical politics [and thankfully, the Vietnam War] in favour for a quiet yet sop ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Vietnam's "Clear Light of Day" (Anita Desai, India). This book, however, was banned in Vietnam. And it made me hungry.

Like "Clear Light of Day", this novel is a family drama which women writers, like Duong Thu Huong and Anita Desai, seem to write exceptionally well. But what is more remarkable here is that Duong Thu Huong isn't really a novelist. She is a professional screenwriter. She said she never intended to write novels. "It just happened, because of the pain," she said in an interview.

Aug 17, 2015 Nathan rated it really liked it
There's an axiom repeated in every school across the United States that goes something like: "communism works on paper, but not in reality", and although I've heard it repeated countless times, I've never heard any explanation beyond that single phrase. Paradise of the Blind shows clearly why such a statement can be so widely accepted as a truth. It's a novel filled with infringements on human rights, bureaucracy and partisan anger. It's often disorienting and strangely beautiful. It's a book t ...more
Rowland Bismark
Paradise of the Blind, by Vietnamese novelist Duong Thu Huong, was first published in Vietnam in 1988 and translated into English in 1993. It was the first novel from Vietnam ever published in the United States and gave American readers authentic insight into the poverty and political corruption that characterized Vietnam under the communist government from the 1950s to the 1980s. Although to most Americans the name Vietnam conjures up images of the Vietnam War, the novel does not concern itself ...more
Jun 07, 2013 Thảo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lần đầu tôi đọc văn của Dương Thu Hương là khi đọc cuốn Đỉnh cao chói lọi. Thành thực mà nói thì cuốn đấy rất chán, hoặc là do bà viết thiên về ám chỉ chính trị nhiều quá, hoặc là tôi bị ám ảnh bởi những hồi kèn trống oang oang mở đường cho cuốn sách ấy nhiều quá. Văn chương đọc mà sặc mùi chính trị lộ thiên thì rất đáng buồn. Rồi hôm nay, trong khi ngồi vơ vẩn ngước nhìn lên xuống tủ sách gia đình, mắt tôi chạm đến mấy tựa sách của Dương Thu Hương thời còn chưa bị cấm xuất bản ở Việt Nam và có ...more
I do not understand why this book was chosen to be in "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die." Yes, the descriptions of the food and countryside are beautiful. Yes, we should know what life in Vietnam was like after the war. But there was no story of interest. I did want to know how the relationship between Hang and her uncle ended, but it took too long to get to Russia. And getting there was such a chore - with the author jumping back and forth in time with no reason that I could discern. I f ...more
Jun 07, 2007 Emiley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: generalfiction
One of my all-time favorite books for its fantastic prose and masterful storytelling. When reading the book, I clearly felt the tension the author must have felt with regards to Vietnam--a deep love for its people and landscape, yet a sorrowful eye towards its history of corruption and deception. Ultimately, I was moved by her portrayal of a resilient student-turned-exported worker who found hope against a backdrop of national and familial turmoil.
Cade Buer
Feb 21, 2015 Cade Buer rated it liked it
Paradise of the Blind is about a young Vietnamese girl named Hang. As the story opens, Hang is working in a textile factory in Russia in the 80's. She receives a telegram that her Uncle Chinh is sick, so she leaves immediately by train to see him. As she travels, she reflects upon her life. The story is given in flashbacks to growing up in Hanoi, visiting her mother's village, and detailing her father's tragic end, whom she never knew. Hang is overburdened at time with the demands of her mother ...more
Feb 11, 2011 Celia rated it really liked it
Shelves: school
Although it was hard to get into Duong's story telling style at first, Paradise of the Blind is a beautifully written tale of a young woman trying to make sense of the world around her. The commentary throughout the story on the affect of communism in Vietnam is powerful, and provokes thought. On a lighter note, the reverence for food in Vietnamese culture is very obvious and can easily make one hungry while reading this.
Having some knowledge of Vietnamese culture and customs is really helpful f
Harry Rutherford
Paradise of the Blind is a Vietnamese novel which was apparently a bestseller in 1988 when it was originally published, in a relatively liberal moment in that country’s recent politics, but has since been banned for Duong’s unflattering portrayal of the Communist party. I’m embarrassed to admit, I had no idea that Vietnam was still a communist state. In fact, most of my associations with Vietnam are, now I think about it, drawn entirely from American war movies. So if nothing else, this book has ...more
Jan 28, 2016 Corinne rated it really liked it
Raised in the slums of postwar Vietnam, Hang has lived a simple and hard life with her mother, who runs a tiny stall at a street market. While they find comfort in each other while Hang is young, the past slowly encroaches on them and Hang ends up in the center of a fierce feud between her mother and the sister of her father. Jealousy, family strife and her mother's strange way of satisfying her own need to be needed create havoc for Hang.

When I was trying to tell my husband about this novel, I
Rio Hayashi
Jun 26, 2016 Rio Hayashi rated it liked it
Way more a family story than a political one. It explores the land reform policy during Vietnam but honestly, the sacrifices made by every women in this novel is so emotionally heavy. I liked how this novel communicated Vietnam's culture really sensitively. Hang's internal conflicts throughout the novel kept me hooked too. Definitely would recommend if you wanna read diversely. I also really loved her writing. Although it's a translation, her language was very poetic and her descriptions of the ...more
Duong Thu Huong's "Paradise of the Blind" was the first Vietnamese novel ever published in the United States. Huong's work was banned in her own country due to its political content and she has been imprisoned there as well.

That doesn't mean the novel is simply a political statement. In fact, it feels more like a personal story. The novel tells the story of Hang, a worker who is forced into "exported labor" in Russia. She travels by train to visit a hated uncle, and reminisces about her family's
Kate S
There was such a sense of universal human behaviors in this story. When Hang was interacting with others, she could have been a young woman anywhere. The horrors taking place both implicitly and explicitly in this book brings home some of the terror encountered by Vietnamese (and others living under such a strict regime). I would be interested in reading a different translation of this book, if one comes available.
Jun 11, 2011 Jim rated it it was ok
Her commentary and insights into communist Vietnam and Vietnamese family and community dynamics are interesting, and there is much to be said about the fact that it was banned, but overall this is not a thrilling read. In fact, I really didn't like any of the characters. I'm not sure why so many people give raving reviews; the book is good, but certainly not great.
Jun 24, 2013 Casey rated it it was amazing
Wow, I never thought I would say this, but, THANK YOU IB ENGLISH! If it wasn't for IB English, I wouldn't have read this book and I would have seriously missed out. I loved the writing style even though I found myself slightly confused at some fairly insignificant details.

Great book.
Scott Cox
Jan 18, 2016 Scott Cox rated it it was amazing
This novel presents a fascinating insight into Vietnamese life and culture from the eyes of a woman author who once was a communist party member and military combatant. Originally published in Vietnamese, it was translated into English after the novel, and the author were banned from the Communist party. It gives Westerners a rare glimpse into expatriate life in the Soviet Union, a country where many Vietnamese traveled and lived. It also tells of the severe poverty, and a portrayal of Communist ...more
Matthew Newton
Sep 23, 2015 Matthew Newton rated it really liked it
Interesting and quite moving.
Mar 22, 2015 Thomas rated it really liked it
Read most of this on the flight to Viet Nam. This book has been banned in Viet Nam, though it doesn't appear that incendiary. It is an extremely touching novel about three women - a mother, her daughter and an aunt - who must each survive in their own ways. It provides great insight into what the country was like after the American War (now I'm talking like a Viet) and also what Vietnamese culture is like in general, such as food and family traditions. A good read with superb plotting, the trans ...more
Jul 09, 2014 Yumi rated it it was amazing
I would learn Vietnamese just to be able to read this novel in its original language. A really powerful story that traces the life of a young Vietnamese girl living through so many different kinds of wars--within Vietnam, within her family, within herself--in both Vietnam and the Soviet Union in the second half of the 20th C (mid 1950s to 80s). I'd read the novel again just for the descriptions of the unspoken feelings of love and resentment that flow between the protagonist Hang and her mother. ...more
This book, written by a Vietnamese Woman and translated to English by Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPerson, is set in Vietnam and Russia after the Vietnam War with the U.S. and tells the story of Hang, her mother and her paternal aunt and through them tells the story of Vietnam after the war and the emergence of communism. This story starts in Russia where Hang is working as an exported worker in a textile plant and is told in a series of flashbacks in Hangs life. We see Hang as a young girl with he ...more
Bill Bruno
Sep 14, 2015 Bill Bruno rated it really liked it
Duong Thu Huong’s Paradise of the Blind covers the impact of the Communist regime on a family with an effective portrayal of family strife that doesn’t get didactic. Hang is the central character, a North Vietnamese woman we see initially as an “exported worker” in the Soviet Union living in a Spartan dormitory. She receives a communication from an uncle in Moscow, a party official, which leads to her decision to take a rail cross-country to visit him.

The novel alternates between that trip and
Nov 28, 2012 Elise rated it it was amazing
In this beautiful, lyrical, and haunting novel about family relationships and what it means to be "home", Huong raises the question, is blood really thicker than water? While the author does engage some of the political issues plaguing a post-war Vietnam trying to redefine itself, she does not preach but rather tells the story of gifted, tragic, sad, and alienated individuals. I did not expect this to be a page-turner, but Huong swept me off my feet with her gorgeously poetic descriptions of set ...more
Wendy Feltham
Mar 30, 2013 Wendy Feltham rated it liked it
Although I haven't rated this book very highly, it was an amazing book to read. The sad tale of young Hang and her mother and aunt as they struggle to survive various political and social reforms is tragic and exhausting. It's a book that looks critically at some Vietnamese traditions, and shows what it was like for poor people to try to get ahead in the 80's. The author was the leader of a communist youth brigade, a soldier when China attacked Vietnam, and a member of the communist party who be ...more
Jun 25, 2012 Clare rated it it was amazing
The amount that I loved this book was amazing to me. I mean, it was summer reading. I have to write an essay on it and everything. I practically HAVE to hate it. But I didn't.

Huong's writing is so rich and descriptive that you are literally transported to the Vietnamese villages she speaks of, to the old train rattling through the cold Russian landscape, to the empty Communist cities, and to the busy, crowded streets of Hanoi. I have never read a book so rich in cultural description before, whic
Mar 09, 2010 Judy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers of translated literature.
Recommended to Judy by: My reading group at Portrait of a Bookstore in Toluca Lake, CA
When one of the five reading groups I attend steers me to a great book I might otherwise not have discovered, I am happy. I forget about all the sappy or stupid books I have read for reading group discussions.

Paradise of the Blind is one of very few novels written by a Vietnamese writer and translated into English. Therefore this story, authored by a Vietnamese woman born in 1947, gives a little known view into life there. It begins when Hang is a ten-year-old girl living with her mother in the
May 18, 2013 linhtalinhtinh rated it liked it
Shelves: other-lit
Thật là khó để tìm thông tin của tác phẩm đã bị cấm hơn 20 năm trời. "Những thiên đường mù" là tác phẩm khiến Dương Thu Hương bị cấm lần thứ 2. Kể ra cấm cũng tài tình thật vì tôi chẳng biết tí gì tới nhà văn nữ này.

Lần đầu đọc, tôi đã quá điên tiết mà dừng lại sau 3 chương đầu và đợi thêm 1 tuần nữa mới đọc tiếp. Tôi nóng tính, rất hay nổi khùng, nên khi đọc đời sống bất lực, ức chế như thế thì đúng là muốn phát điên. Nhưng rồi thì cái cay đắng khổ cực ấy cũng như được chút xoa dịu, dù tôi thấy
Dinah Jefferies
Aug 12, 2013 Dinah Jefferies rated it liked it
I read this book as part of my research on Vietnam and found it painted a desolate picture of life under the fledgling communist government in the early days after the French lost the country in 1954, and after the American War. Having said that, the detail of ordinary lives is fascinating: the food, the proverbs, the homes, the clothes, the beautiful countryside. The descriptions of food bring home how hard it was for people to survive, and how shocking the deprivation they faced. She builds a ...more
Shayaan Rasul
Aug 14, 2013 Shayaan Rasul rated it really liked it
'Paradise of the Blind' is the riveting tale of a Vietnam torn apart by the communistic regimes of society. Set in the 1980s, the novel follows the life of a disciplined and resilient young woman named Hang who works in a Soviet Union textile factory to support her declining mother. The story is narrated through Hang's memories as she recalls her experiences growing up in the slums of Hanoi. Duong Thu Huong writes about the struggles of three, ineluctably related women: Hang who longs to know mo ...more
Diane Zwang
I enjoy a good family story and this one fit the bill. This story based in Vietnam during the communism uprising, was about three strong women. Hang the young girl, her mother and Aunt Tam. The story is told in the past and present through Hang's point of view. I thought all the women were brave and resilient even if I didn't agree with their actions. Food also played a big part of this story and was described in great detail. The book came full circle for me and I like how it ended.
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Dương Thu Hương (b. 1947) is a Vietnamese author and political dissident. Formerly a member of Vietnam's communist party, she was expelled from the party in 1989, and has been denied the right to travel abroad, and was temporarily imprisoned for her writings and outspoken criticism of corruption in the Vietnamese government.

Born in 1947 in Thai Binh a province in northern Vietnam, Dương came of ag
More about Dương Thu Hương...

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“The habit of misery had twisted these people, driving them to this paranoia. What had been diligence turned to desperation.” 7 likes
“Outside, on the other side of a black iron grill, was another crowd, just as anxious, just as sweaty and frightened. These were the parents and friends of those departing. They all waited for deliverance. When all the customs procedures had been completed, when the crowd of travelers had passed through the last security booths and were walking toward the tarmac, you could see, on the faces of those left behind, the relief, the joy, the pride of vicarious success. The vision of a happier future elsewhere, anywhere but here. Smiles of contentment, faces radiant with happiness. Nowhere else in the world does separation bear the hideous face of joy. This was a grotesque face, a deviation from all rules of human nature.” 2 likes
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