Poetry International Poetry International

Vaan Nguyen

Vaan Nguyen

Vaan Nguyen

(Israel, 1982)
Vaan Nguyen was born in 1982 in Ashkelon, Israel and raised in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv.  Her debut collection The Truffle Eye received an enthusiastic reception when it appeared as a print and digital chapbook in 2008. Roy Chicky Arad, who published Nguyen’s early poems in the literary journal Ma’ayan, described her work as “eel-like, elusive, shimmering” in Ha’aretz. In a review titled “The Critic in Love” in Ma’ariv, Menachem Ben, a prominent literary and cultural critic, situated Nguyen’s work among the luminaries of Israeli literature.  “Not since Yona Wallach in the sixties, seventies, and eighties have we witnessed such a phenomenon – a poet whose first book positions her at the center of Israeli poetry.”

Many early reviews of Nguyen’s work, including Ben’s, emphasized her cultural background as the daughter of refugees of the Vietnam War. By contrast, the late critic Tali Latowicki highlighted poems that demonstrated Nguyen’s inventive and surprising poetic language and forms. “In [Vaan Nguyen’s] rich Hebrew, there is an enviable lack of stereotypes and linguistic and cultural fixations,” wrote Latowicki. “On the musical level, her ear picks up the most striking and inviting combinations, though hallucinatory from a semantic perspective.”
An expanded edition of The Truffle Eye was published in 2013 and is forthcoming in my English translation (Zephyr Press, 2020). In an earlier essay, I described the process of translating Vaan Nguyen's work:
Truffles are notoriously difficult to domesticate, and I have taken this to heart as I translate Nguyen’s poems and their unexpected, unpredictable movements and juxtapositions. Nguyen favors a collage aesthetic, and in my translations, I draw ideas and solutions from contemporary U.S. poetry and translation, where this feature is prevalent.

Translations (into English) of Vaan Nguyen’s poetry circulate online and in print in The Ilanot Review, Seedings, Pen.org, and Inheriting the War: Poetry and Prose by Descendants of the Vietnam Veterans and Refugees. French translations by poet Sabine Huynh appeared in the journal Nunc in 2017.

© Adriana X. Jacobs

Poetry in Hebrew
Eyn ha-kemihin (The Truffle Eye). Tel Aviv, Ma’ayan, 2008 (chapbook)/ 2013 (full-length).
Chitukh ha-havalim (Vain Ratio). Tel Aviv, Barchash, 2018.

Forthcoming in English
The Truffle Eye, trans. Adriana X. Jacobs, Brookline, MA, Zephyr Press, 2020.

Links in English
FILM  The Journey of Vaan Nguyen in Hebrew with English subtitles
AUDIO  A conversation with the translator on TLV1
POEM  Mekong River

Links in Hebrew
SHORT STORY The Truffle Eye
REVIEW by Tali Latowicki
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère