I have been trying my hardest not to comment on Ben Kiernan’s recent book, Việt Nam: A History from Earliest Times to the Present. However, a sense of morbid curiosity keeps leading me to open the covers of that book, and each time I look inside I can’t believe what I see (this is after all a book published by Oxford University Press in 2017).
For instance, I recently opened the book to the following passage (pg. 173):
“The first extant text written in Vietnamese was composed in 1282, in the nôm script. Its author, Nguyễn Thuyên, addressed this poem to crocodiles that had appeared in the Lô branch of the Red River, and Emperor Trần Nhân Tông ordered the text thrown in the river in the hope of driving the reptiles away.”
Continue reading “Crocodiles and the Sinking of Premodern Vietnamese History”