So I know that some people get upset by some of the criticisms that I make in this blog (such as declaring that Vietnamese historical scholarship is dead). However, I stand by what I say. If something should be criticized, I’ll criticize it. If something deserves praise, I’ll praise it.
A couple of days ago a long-time reader of this blog suggested that I read a new book by Huy Đức called Bên Thắng Cuộc. He told me that “by some accounts it is the most important history book in the last few decades.”
Bên Thắng Cuộc deals with the period from 1975-2005. I definitely do not claim to be an expert on that period, and I’m curious to see how experts on that period will view this book.
However, I think I can recognize good scholarship when I see it, and this is good scholarship. In particular, I’m impressed by the detailed information in this work, by the way in which that information is clearly documented, and by the neutral tone of the narrative.
This is a very important book. I think that we are gradually starting to see more honest and revealing works emerge from Vietnamese writers (such as writings about land reform in the 1950s in the North). This work combines honesty with scholarly rigor.
It is absolutely wonderful to see a book like this getting published. I think the people who enabled this book to become published deserve recognition. But of course most of all, the author should be honored for producing a solid piece of historical scholarship.
I don’t usually promote anything on this blog, but this book is an exception. For anyone interested, here is a link to a Facebook page for this book, as well as a link to a page to purchase this book.
So yes, some Vietnamese historical scholarship is definitely not dead yet. . . But as for the Hùng kings and the thousands of years of “resistance against foreign aggression”. . . that’s another story. . . But let’s put that aside for the moment and celebrate Huy Đức’s wonderful achievement. Good job!! May many more books like this follow!!!