In the ten operational principles of Tu Luong Van Doan, the spirit is stated: “Using a simple, easy-to-understand style, few words of Confucianism, a writing style with real Annam character” (Article 4). This spirit runs through and shows up in almost all of Tu Lu’s works and novels Master Xiaoshan Khai Hung’s is not outside the common spirit. Then, the mighty Tieu Son wrote on historical topics, but with innovations in both content and art aspects, the story broke out of the structure of the chapter novel and approached the modern novel.
Master Xiaoshan and the art of depicting time by Khai Hung
For thousands of years, our country’s literature has been deeply influenced by ancient Chinese literature: poetry is influenced by Tang Lu poetry and novels are influenced by chapter novels. It was not until the early years of the twentieth century, especially the period from 1932 to 1945, that our country’s literature was mobilized, transformed quickly, and modernized strongly. Literary modernization here refers to a literature that has escaped from the old literary poetic system to enter modern literature, a literature that can catch up and join the world literature. .
Born in such circumstances, penned by one of the leaders of the literary modernization movement, Master Xiaoshan both inheriting the quintessence of old literature, while learning and absorbing world literary achievements, which has since become a very modern novel.
And that modernity is reflected in the way Khai Hung names each episode in Master Xiaoshan. If the novel is a classic, the title of the episode is set according to the way two parallel lines stand symmetrically, such as: “Truong Thien Su prays for peace and the plague/Hong Thai lieutenant misses a demon” (Water Margin Story) to summarize, generalize, summarize in the most concise way, giving the reader the most general view of the content of the chapter. Then every time in Master Xiaoshan All of them have short titles, even there are episodes with a condensed title with only one word like Act 18 “Thunder”.
By giving such a name, Khai Hung has completely overcome the limitation of the old naming style when liberating readers’ thoughts from the direction of the author. At the same time, make readers become co-creators in excitement, curiosity and stimulated imagination, expanding to many dimensions. It can be said that the smallest expression in terms of such form in the longest novel in Khai Hung’s writing career has also shown his seriousness on the path of contemporary Vietnamese literary innovation.
From the expression on the aspect of naming chapters and arranging the structure of works, the modernity of Master Xiaoshan continues to be strongly expressed in the way Khai Hung recreates the flow of time and spatial structure on each written page.
If a classic novel, especially a chapter novel, the story always follows a linear time axis, one event after another sequentially, without any breakthrough or disturbance in space. as well as time; then The mighty Tieu Son, The story structure no longer follows that linear rule, but becomes flexible and transformative. In many episodes, Khai Hung has put actions and results first to guide the story. After that, the new timeline slowly goes back to solve the causes, circumstances, and plans.
Like act 30 ended with Pham Thai’s oath before the soul of Truong Dang Thu, but in act 31, the space suddenly changed to a trip to the country temple of mother and daughter Truong Quynh Nhu and had to come to act 32 of the author. just explained the relationship between two people Truong Dang Thu – Truong Quynh Nhu. From there, explain the reason for Pham Thai’s actions in the 30th act. Or chapter 28, the author mentioned The human cotgo to chapter 27 about Nguyen Cong Tu and then he came back to explain at the 28th Who is that general?in the human cage, is Pham Thai or someone else and what kind of person is Nguyen Cong Tu.
All of these ideas may not be compatible with the previous story, but the more we read, the more we get caught up in the story, the more we see that all are extremely closely connected. And all in all, they are all pieces of the whole picture of Master Xiaoshanabout the hero Pham Thai in the midst of chaos.
*Cre: Elite Literature
Xiaoshan Khai Hung’s painter and descriptive art
As one of the outstanding writers of Tu Luc Van Doan literature, Khai Hung’s descriptive art can be said to have reached a sharp level. Described in his work in general, Master Xiaoshan In particular, it’s not about describing so much that it’s complete, but it’s meticulous, distilling what’s most subtle in scenes and people. The pen style has the artistic direction of “drawing clouds and the moon” or the art of drawing divine images, but Khai Hung’s words have brought the sentence beyond the norm of literature and towards the most modern.
That modernity is expressed first of all in the way nature is described. Nature and scenery appearing in Khai Hung’s literature are idyllicly beautiful. From the murky scene in act 18: “Parallelly walking in pairs and walking one at a time on a dirt road full of wet green grass, the four horses occasionally encounter puddles under the grass after the rain the night before, causing the water to burst. splash. The rain has stopped completely. But the weather is getting more and more expensive, especially the strong north wind, making everyone’s limbs cold”; to the poetic, lyrical scene in act 31: “In the Phong Doanh river, the boat goes down very quickly, as gently as flying on the water. It’s just dawn. A cool, calm, inspiring autumn morning […] Looking up from below the river surface, Duc Thuy mountain is round and beautiful like a large rockery set in a long-sided pool”; Or the scene of the garden of Kien Xuyen house: “After the row of flowers built in the shape of the word “life seal”, the double and single ephemeral flowers in the afternoon have turned crimson, from pale pink to crimson red. […] Under the array of old green leaves hanging through the latticework of the bamboo, the rows of blue-glazed porcelain pots and the black Bat Trang rows, placed on the same style pedestals” all show the sensitivity in Khai’s description. Hung in front of nature, more broadly, is the sacred soul of Vietnam.
Khai Hung’s sentence is really far from the conventional and antiquated description in ancient literature but still reaches a streamlined level, as the sixth article on the principle of self-help action has pointed out: “Praise the good qualities. , the beauty of the country that is popular in nature, makes others fall in love with the country in a popular way. There is no aristocratic bourgeois character.”
Besides capturing and describing the spirit of the scene, Khai Hung is also really subtle in depicting the character’s psychological development. Those are fleeting feelings but quickly become nationalist ideology; pay for the country’s debt, take revenge on the house; rebelled against the Tay Son, and repressed the Le of Quang Ngoc and Nhi Nuong. Or the most fragile vibrations of a twenty-year-old young man Pham Thai in front of a smart, talented, understanding, and heavenly girl like Truong Quynh Nhu: “Pham Thai looks at Quynh Nhu’s gestures more and more admiringly. very appreciative. He thought to himself, “This person is probably as clever as Nhi Nuong, but more beautiful in terms of beauty.” […] “Why isn’t a peerless beauty like that in the Tieu Son party?”… And the couple’s feelings changed from admiration to love naturally, as a necessity. When Pham Thai “began to get discouraged, a bit bored with the times”, he returned to the girl he admired. In particular, that emotional part was pushed to the highest level, when the young man had to stand in front of and face the gravestone of his beloved, when the two were separated from each other:
“It was almost dark. The village streets are empty of passersby. Suddenly a horseman galloped forward, put his reins by the willow tree by the grave, and fell down quickly, lying on the ground crying bitterly.
That person was Pham Thai, former military advisor of Nguyen Doan, deputy party chief and military advisor of the Tieu Son party. That person who has fought many times in the forest of swords, is now just an ordinary person with no energy left to strive.
Because he loves”
Analyzing the psychological changes of Pham Thai during this period, Khai Hung himself made a good comment that can be considered as a summary that: “At the age of twenty, enthusiasm is real. But when it has cooled down, it is colder than ashes. At that time, they will bring out the word of cynicism and cover up a weak soul.” And just like the words of critic Vu Ngoc Phan when commenting on how to describe human psychology, especially young people in Master Xiaoshan; Khai Hung really managed to capture: “[…] The unique thing that people see in Khai Hung’s writings is a very correct assessment of the souls of young men and women in Vietnam. One might call him “a youth writer”. He is very knowledgeable about people’s character in youth…”
Perhaps, it is the depth, sensitivity, and sophistication in the human gaze and the life that Khai Hung’s pen describes that has created the romantic and silver color that covers the novel. Master Xiaoshan. Romance covers every move of the horse the hero rides, weaves into the brotherhood of camaraderie and suffering, and protects the patriot’s chief justice. And that is also one of the most outstanding features of the novel Self-help, romantic but not as sophisticated as the novels of amateurs and beauties in the past, but idyllic, close, familiar but still incomplete. modern power in autobiographical poetics.
Master Xiaoshan and innovation in content
In addition to the artistic expression, the modernity of the novel Master Xiaoshan also expressed in terms of content Khai Hung portrayed in each word.
Indeed, the title of the work – Master Xiaoshan With the same theme of the story, it is easy for readers to mistake this as a historical swordplay book. When the author recounts the story of the heroic Tieu Son who pursued the goal of restoring the decayed Le dynasty. That goal is a manifestation of the profound influence of Confucian thought: middle-class to blind ideology.
However, the more deeply we go into the content of the work, the more we see Khai Hung telling the old story as if talking about the present. Young people in the Tieu Son party such as Quang Ngoc, Pham Thai, and Nhi Nuong are like an implied personality building for young people of the time, living in the semi-feudal colonial society of an era of “awesome people”. three Pheng” (a word used by Nguyen Tuan) is “acting”, groping hopelessly, helpless in the midst of life to find a reason to live, “to get out of the depression that surrounds me”. That idea, once again, is clearly affirmed by Khai Hung at the end of the story, in the dialogue between Nhi Nuong and Quang Ngoc:
“- We wait for the occasion to act. Action is our duty. Without action, our life has no meaning anymore, right?
Nhi Nuong smiled.
– Very good sage!
Quang Ngoc, like a maniac, said:
– Action? Act?”
But there are also people who cannot overcome difficulties and sufferings of life like Pham Thai. Pham Thai, a man who used to stir water in the sky, was once the top object of the government’s arrest. Finally, he was just a guy who fished, drank alcohol, lost all his will and reason to live, living in the world just like a woman. temporarily clinging: “Ha ha! The great solstice in the world does not contain a whole lake of wine”, “Ha ha! The greatness of the world is not filled with two beautiful eyes.”
Writing about the heroes of Tieu Son, writing about a story, a piece of history, Khai Hung has indirectly portrayed the society, purpose and ideals of a part of contemporary youth; impulsive, longing a lot, but in the end, what you get is just such an endless emptiness. And that is also Khai Hung’s modern look on people and life. When he recognized and expressed on the page the individual “me” separate from the people, the desire to find the “place” and affirm that “me”.
In the article about Self-help Van Doan in the book Vietnamese Literature 1900-1945, Professor Phan Cu De wrote: “The idealized protagonists in romantic literature are, in the end, just an array of characteristics. writer’s way”. And the characters idealized by Khai Hung in the novel Master Xiaoshan is also the realization of a part of the ideal, the author’s person; a vague patriotic ideal but full of deadlocks.
Link to buy the book: