Em-by-Thuy
2023 Shortlist

Em

Translated from the original French by Sheila Fischman
artwork-image

ABOUT
THE BOOK

Kim Thúy’s Em is a virtuosic novel of profound power and sen­sitivity, and an enduring affirmation of the greatest act of resistance: love. In the midst of war, an ordinary miracle: an abandoned baby is tenderly cared for by a young boy living on the streets of Saigon. Through the linked destinies of a family of characters, the novel takes its inspiration from historical events, from Operation Babylift, which evacuated thousands of biracial orphans from Saigon in April 1975, to the remarkable growth of the nail salon industry, dominated by Vietnamese expatriates all over the world. From the rubber plantations of Indochina to the massacre at My Lai, Kim Thúy sifts through the layers of pain and trauma in stories we thought we knew, revealing transcendent moments of grace, and the invincibility of the human spirit.

Comments from the Judges

Em is a novel about love and war by Kim Thúy, a Vietnamese refugee writer in French-speaking Canada. It is an attempt to salvage something human from what the Vietnamese called the American war. And it is possible to read the book in several ways. As a novel, it reads like a personal essay, its writing precise and its stories provisional as it pieces together fragments of human lives lost on all sides of the conflict. On the other hand, it reads like an epic odyssey through the storms of war in less than 150 pages. The reader is introduced to the war’s impact through stories of interlinked characters, clinging together through instinct, each in their own circle of hell. The imaginative and creative task of the book is to allow us to pass through these experiences and emerge with a semblance of hope, or at least some of the pain of love. What does sustain us in the journey of the book is the creative insight, empathy and imagination of a survivor turning back in witness, on what the Americans called the Vietnam war. A favourite character is the street orphan, Louis, so named because he came out black like Louis Armstrong. Alone in Saigon, he learns to survive by seeing into the heart of anyone he meets. Hiding beneath pews in Saigon’s Catholic cathedral, he sees that the most powerful woman in South Vietnam has the claws of a dragon.

ABOUT
THE AUTHOR Kim
Thúy

Kim Thúy has worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer and restaurant owner. She currently lives in Montreal where she devotes herself to writing. Born in Saigon in 1968, Kim Thúy left Vietnam with the boat people at the age of ten and settled with her family in Quebec. A graduate in translation and law, she has worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer, restaurant owner, media personality and television host. She lives in Montreal. Kim Thúy has received many awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Award in 2010. Her books have sold more than 850,000 copies around the world and have been translated into 29 languages and distributed across 40 countries and territories.

Kim Thúy has worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer and restaurant owner. She currently lives in Montreal where she devotes herself to writing. Born in Saigon in 1968, Kim Thúy left Vietnam with the boat people at the age of ten and settled with her family in Quebec. A graduate in translation and law, she has worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer, restaurant owner, media personality and television host. She lives in Montreal. Kim Thúy has received many awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Award in 2010. Her books have sold more than 850,000 copies around the world and have been translated into 29 languages and distributed across 40 countries and territories.

ABOUT
THE TRANSLATOR Sheila
Fischman

Sheila Fischman is the award-winning translator of some 200 contemporary novels from Quebec. In 2008, she was awarded the Molson Prize in the Arts. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and a chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec. She lives in Montreal.

Sheila Fischman is the award-winning translator of some 200 contemporary novels from Quebec. In 2008, she was awarded the Molson Prize in the Arts. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and a chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec. She lives in Montreal.

NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS

Kim Thúy seals words into packets, plain and firm as an encyclopedia entry; shimmery and taut as an ode; pitted and unbendable as a curse, lays them edge to corner to end to say, do you see it now? Do you? – Hartford Public Library, USA

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Date published
01/10/2020
Country
Canada
Original Language
French
Author
Translator
Sheila Fischman
Translation
Translated from the original French by Sheila Fischman

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