Kim Thúy: Thread of oneself

Kim Thúy: Thread of oneself

Translated into 29 languages and distributed in 40 countries, the writings of Montrealer Kim Thúy travel the world. After Ru , mãn and Vi , she has just launched her fourth novel, Em .

Share November 7, 2020 3:00 am Updated at 6:00 am Share Kim Thúy: Fil de soiKim Thúy: Thread of oneself

Karine Tremblay La Tribune Kim Thúy has already written on love, war and Vietnam. Without ever repeating itself. With Em , she touches this triad again.

The breath of the novel, all in delicacy and finesse, undeniably bears the seal of his gaze. We hear his voice. Poetic, personal. We recognize it from the first pages.

And at the same time, we perceive a different note.

A need to name certain things, perhaps. To go elsewhere. To put the foot and the pen in a war zone. Where humanity bows under bullets and barbarism.

Back in March, freeze on images.

When, in the wake of the first confinement, everyone was sent back to their cocoon and wondered what would be done tomorrow, Kim Thúy spent his nights in yesterday in Vietnam. Literally.

The documentary The Vietnam War (20 hours which tells the story of 20 years of war) lived in her hours after midnight, those that she devotes to writing.

The images, the stories, the confessions: everything bordered on the inexpressible. It was still necessary to find the words to say, to testify, to rock.

“I learned a lot. The more I read about us, the less I understood us. Why do humans need this? Why does he always yearn for more land, more wealth, all the time? “

The question does not call for an answer. It highlights how history repeats itself in different territories, at different times.

“I found some testimonies from soldiers from northern Vietnam, I also had those from the Americans. Everything is so terrible. We realize how right nobody is, in a war, and how much the population pays for the senseless decisions taken by their leaders. “

The facts acted like scratches.

They left scars. Sensitive areas.

“I always try not to be impervious to horror. I'm trying to fight the horror, actually. To counterbalance it with beauty. And there it was difficult. “

More than before.

“I came out a bit damaged. There were awakenings … I was not really able to preserve my innocence at the release of this book. I saw our ugliness. How far we are able to go. I knew, but I hadn't opened the box yet. “

Now it is impossible to close.

“What happened in Quebec last weekend, in Paris, Vienna, Nice; all this news plunges me back into this dark side of the human. ”

Kim Thúy: Thread of oneself

Kim Thúy Photo La Presse, Marco Campanozzi

The orphan in the box

The idea of the box comes up often. It even appears on the cover of Em , where a cardboard box is cut out from which strings escape. Like so many lines of life which cross, uncross, re-cross.

Just like the linked destinies that Kim Thúy tells over the 150 pages of her brilliantly woven story.

A story of which she had the idea after seeing the photo of a baby lying in a box, precisely, next to a little boy.

“The Cardboard Nest Girl later became a senior officer in the United States Army. It's fascinating, as a journey. “

By being interested in the trajectory of the orphan, she unearthed other stories.

Tâm, Alexandre, Mai, Emma-Jade, Louis are some of the faces that she sketches while recounting the events that marked the history of the land where she was born.

Each person's path is intertwined with that of the others and the links between them all sometimes defy chance.

“It happens a lot in life, this kind of stuff. People who cross our path and that we see later in an almost improbable context. “

Throughout the short chapters, the devastation of Agent Orange emerges. The toughness of rubber plantations. Operation Babylift, a political marketing campaign disguised as a humanitarian gesture. Dreams sheared on either side of the battlefield. The nail salons that have allowed Vietnamese women to shine their future in the West. Destroyed destinies. The pain of war orphans. The sun is rising nonetheless. The love that can be despite everything.

Aim for the light

The subject is hard, but Kim Thúy manages to approach it bluntly. And without sinking into heaviness. With, always, a touch of light.

“You know, there were really several times when I lost faith in humanity while researching to write this novel. There were all these things that break your heart, that fill your lungs with tears. Of anger. Anything you want. But if you stay in there, you collapse. “

You had to force your gaze to see beyond the trauma. It was necessary to overcome fear, to seize the nuggets of grace that bloom even in the mud. It was necessary to capture the touches of light. And make them shine.

“Ordinary heroism is made up of small acts of mutual aid which show that, even if we are all somewhat capable of being bad, we are not all at the same time. And we are also capable of greatness. This is what must be emphasized. “

This is also what we must choose to cling to.

“I would give as an example the works of the painter Pierre Soulages. He only uses black for his paintings, playing with reliefs. The first time I went to see one of his exhibitions, it was backwards. A series of black canvases, that didn't interest me. “

On the spot, however, the writer was taken with enchantment.

“For the first time, I understood what light is. Because light is best reflected in the dark. You have to look for it. It's not always easy to find, but it's there. We must decide to fix our gaze there. It's the same in life. “

And it is a training that can be learned.

“My mother has always told me that life is full of traps, that there is always a possibility of falling into one of them. She also repeats me: if that happens, instead of looking down the hole, look up at the sky. It has become a discipline for me. It is believed that the light comes on its own. But no. You have to choose it. Protect her. Insist. ”

Kim Thúy: Thread of oneself

Kim Thúy Photo Carl Lessard

Em . E Love you.

Kim Thúy wrote it from the start, at the start of her fourth novel: the word em exists to designate the smallest in a family.

But she also sees in it, above all, the namesake of the verb to love. Imperative. Love. As a necessity. Like a prayer.

“I beg us all to love. To pay attention to this word. To cherish it, to inhabit it through each of our gestures. We think it's easy, but it's not. We must train. And “get stuck”. At large. I know it sounds very mundane, but it's actually a big challenge. “

Because it requires thwarting the first reflex. The impulse.

“It's very easy to respond with hatred when a hateful act is done around us and reaches us, large or small. The gesture of loving is that of going further, of seeking, of trying to understand. Even when we're in pain. “

She tells a personal episode. Simple and yet rich in images. One day, someone offended her.

“It's rare, but here I was really angry. I took my car keys, ready to confront this person. “

In the door frame, Kim Thúy stopped. She took five minutes of thinking.

“I gave myself the right to go after that, but those five minutes changed my way of solving the problem. “

She headed to the florist. Where she had a huge bouquet prepared.

“When I said it was for someone who had hurt me, the florist didn't understand, 'Do you want cacti in your wreath?' On the contrary, I wanted the prettiest flowers. “

She chose each one carefully before delivering the colorful result.

“After that, honestly, my anger had subsided. I told myself that this person had wanted to cough up blood on me because he had blood in his mouth, whereas initially, I was rather full. I was a lawyer in a large corporate office. Battles I have fought, I am capable of fighting. But it's a choice not to do it out of anger. It has always been my choice. “

Em, how does she choose to see him? Like a romance novel? A political writing? A poetic salvo?

“Can we separate it all? I do not think so. It is a mistake to do so. This is why politicians sometimes get it wrong. If our leaders considered love in the equation and in their strategies, the laws would be different, their decisions too. This would lead to a management where we consider the person beyond the efficiency of a system, a management where we think differently, beyond accounting ideas. It's tiring, I know. But that's it, knowing how to love; it is the most demanding thing there is. ”

Kim Thúy: Thread of oneself


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Kim Thúy
Free expression
150 p.

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