Frank Gerke of Germany has spent years translating Vietnamese literary works into his native language.
“I’ve read many Vietnamese novels and I like works by the late writer Vu Trong Phung most,” Gerke said.
Most of Phung’s novels have poked fun at the lifestyle of Viet Nam’s upper classes in the late 1930s.
Gerke is now translating Dat Lua (A Land of Fire) by acclaimed writer Nguyen Quang Sang into German.
Sang’s short stories Ao Tuong (Illusion) and Toi Thich Lam Vua (I Like to Be King) were also chosen by Gerke for translations in recent years.
“I met Sang during my first visit to Viet Nam in 1993 and I started reading his works then,” Gerke said. “I was captivated by his plain writing style featuring the simple characteristics and lifestyle of people living in the country’s southern regions.”
“My translations will help German people know more about the land and the people of Viet Nam, ” he added, speaking in southern-accented Vietnamese.
Gerke has travelled to the southern provinces many times. “I can understand the unique dialects of southern Viet Nam when I translate Dat Lua,” he said.
“My wife, a Hanoian, even asked me to explain to her several southern dialects when she read Dat Lua,” Gerke said.
Dat Lua is about southerners and society during the American war in the country.
Before Dat Lua, Gerke translated works by many Vietnamese well-known poets including Ho Xuan Huong, Nguyen Binh and Han Mac Tu into German.
Gerke started learning Vietnamese when he was a high school student.
“Many Vietnamese youths studied in Germany and I learnt Vietnamese from them,” he said.
He graduated from the Vietnamese language faculty at HCM City-based National University in 1994. Years before he obtained a doctorate in Vietnamese ethnology at Berlin University.
Gerke is also fond of Vietnamese music, especially the love melodies and anti-war songs composed by Trinh Cong Son.
Son, who died in 2001, is well-known in Viet Nam and abroad as a master songwriter of melodies featuring love and the destiny of human beings.
“I met the composer many times before his death,” Gerke, who now has a Vietnamese name, Trinh Cong Long, given to him by Son. “I was born in 1964, the Year of the Dragon, and in Vietnamese, Long means dragon.”
He said he would apply for Vietnamese citizenship. “I’ll become a citizen of Viet Nam where I’ve chosen my second country,” he said. — VNS