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RU by Kim Thúy
Translated by Sheila Fischman
You might be forgiven for mistaking Ru for a quiet book, such is the gentle flow of vignettes that make up its narrator, Nguyên An Tinh’s life. Yet the events she recounts are anything but quiet - born in Vietnam during the Tet offensive, she flees the Communist regime by boat, lands in a squalid Malaysian refugee camp and, eventually, ends up in Quebec.
Thúy artfully captures the peculiar balance of refugee life - the longing for a home that has turned hostile, and the hope and curiosity of starting again. And, of course, the guilt: about what was and what might - or might not - be. It is both elegy and celebration; a book of observation and insight, not so much interested in big events but small moments of beauty and humour.
Ru was a smash hit in Canada and it’s not hard to see why. As a country that welcomes refugees and gives them the opportunity to thrive, it shines as quite the promised land. I was left to wonder, though, about those for whom the promise falls flat. They barely score a mention. For that, you’d best return to Drndić’s Canzone Di Guerra.
Ru by Kim Thúy (Tr. Sheila Fischman)
Clerkenwell Press, 2012