Before the 17th century, official Vietnamese documents, literature and poetry were written in Classical Chinese.
The modern written Vietnamese language chữ quốc ngữ utilizes Latin script with additional accent marks (diacritics) and characters joined together (digraphs). Mandated by the French colonial government in the early 20th century, chữ quốc ngữ became the written language of French Indochina. After declaring independence from France in 1945, the Empire of Vietnam, a short-lived client state of Imperial Japan, successfully promoted increased literacy and chữ quốc ngữ, remains the written language of modern Vietnam
The two most influential literary movements of the 20th century were the Tu Luc Van Doan (Independent Literary Group) and the Tho Moi (New Poetry) school. Soon, differences in defining Vietnamese nationalism lead to right and left extremism. With the 1936 establishment of the leftist Popular Front in France, and the success of the Viet Minh in 1945, Communist writers in the north began to emulate the Socialist Realism of the USSR.
In 1920, Việt Nam sử lược (Outline History of Vietnam) written by the historian by Trần Trọng Kim was the first history text published in chữ quốc ngữ, Although considered the standard history text in South Vietnam, it has been criticized by Communist historians, who argue that several Communist heroes have been misrepresented.
Published in 1936, the controversial novel Số đỏ (Dumb Luck) by Vũ Trọng Phụng was banned in Vietnam until 1986. A bitter satire of the late colonial era, the novel follows the social rise of a red-headed vagabond in Hanoi in the late colonial era.
English Translation by Nhien Nguyen MD
Don’t you hear Autumn
Under dim sobbing moon?
Don’t you hear distress
The image of a warrior
In the heart of his lonely wife?
Don’t you hear Autumn forest
Scattered sounds of falling Autumn leaves
A bewildered amber deer
Steps on dry amber leaves?