Contemporary French Civilization

From author to saint: the appropriations of Victor Hugo and Les Misérables in colonial Vietnam

Contemporary French Civilization (2017), 42, (1), 113–129.

Abstract

This paper argues that during the French colonization of Vietnam the emergence of Les Misérables as a transnational work and Victor Hugo as a global figure can be traced back to their successful and seamless integration into local literature and religion. Based on the concept of appropriation, a process in which the target text “takes over” the source text, subjecting it to different forms of transformation, a rereading of Hugo and his masterpiece will be proposed through three of these forms: a translation of Les Misérables by Nguyễn-Văn-Vĩnh, an adaptation of the same novel by Hồ-Biểu-Chánh, and an indigenization of Spirit Hugo in Caodaism by Phạm-Công-Tắc. In the light of anticolonial resistance, this study investigates the extent to which the subversive act of literary and cultural appropriation carried out by these three Vietnamese authors in the 1920s can be seen as a reversed assimilation that transgresses the boundaries between dominant and dominated, colonizer and the colonized.

Pendant la colonisation française du Vietnam, l’émergence de Victor Hugo et des Misérables comme auteur et roman transnationaux pourrait être renvoyée à leur parfaite intégration dans le champ littéraire et religieux local. S’appuyant sur le concept d’appropriation qui décrit un processus dans lequel l’hypertexte “reprend en main” l’hypotexte l’exposant à différentes formes de transformation, cet article propose une relecture de Hugo et son chef-d’œuvre à travers trois instances: la traduction des Misérables par Nguyễn-Văn-Vĩnh, l’adaptation du même ouvrage par Hồ-Biểu-Chánh et l’indigénisation de l’Esprit Hugo dans la religion Caodai par Phạm-Công-Tắc. Il s’agit ici d’examiner à la lumière d’une résistance anticoloniale la mesure dans laquelle l’acte subversif d’appropriation littéraire et religieux de ces trois auteurs vietnamiens des années 1920 pourrait se lire comme une assimilation renversée qui transgresse les frontières entre le dominant et le dominé, le colonisateur et le colonisé.

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DeFrancis, John. Colonialism and Language Policy in Vietnam. Mouton, 1977. Colonialism and Language Policy in Vietnam. Google Scholar

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Nguyễn, Văn-Trung. “Les Misérables của Victor Hugo và Ngọn Cỏ Gió Đùa của Hồ-Biểu-Chánh.” (Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and Hồ-Biểu-Chánh’s Ngọn Cỏ Gió Đùa), 7 Jan. 2016, hobieuchanh.com/pages/baiviet/NguyenVanTrung/Lesmirerables_nvt.htm. Google Scholar

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Oliver, Victor L. Caodai Spiritism: A Study of Religion in Vietnamese Society. Brill, 1976. Caodai Spiritism: A Study of Religion in Vietnamese Society Google Scholar

Phạm, Công-Tắc. “Sermon of his Holiness Hộ-Pháp Phạm-Công-Tắc,” Centre for Studies in Caodaism, 12 Jan. 2016, www.daotam.info/booksv/ltdcdhp.htm. Google Scholar

Raw, Lawrence. “Identifying common ground.” Translation, Adaption and Transformation, edited by Lawrence Raw, Continuum, 2012, pp. 1–20. Identifying common ground Translation, Adaption and Transformation 1 20 Google Scholar

Sanders, Julie. Adaptation and Appropriation. Routledge, 2006. Adaptation and Appropriation Google Scholar

Schafer, John C., and The-Uyen. “The novel emerges in Cochinchina.” Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 52, no. 4, 1993, pp. 854–884. The novel emerges in Cochinchina Journal of Asian Studies 52 854 884 Google Scholar

Tiffin, Helen. “Post-colonial literatures and counter-discourse.” The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures, edited by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, Routledge, 1995, pp. 95–98. Post-colonial literatures and counter-discourse The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures 95 98 Google Scholar

Trần, Thu-Dung. Le Caodaïsme et Victor Hugo. Université de Paris VII, 1996. PhD thesis. Le Caodaïsme et Victor Hugo Google Scholar

Vandal-Sirois, Hugo, and Georges L. Bastin. “Adaptation and appropriation: Is there a limit?” Translation, Adaption and Transformation, edited by Lawrence Raw, Continuum, 2012, pp. 21–41. Adaptation and appropriation: Is there a limit? Translation, Adaption and Transformation 21 41 Google Scholar

Zinoman, Peter. “Reading revolutionary prison memoirs.” The Country of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late Socialist Vietnam, edited by Hue-Tam Ho Tai, U of California P, 2001, pp. 21–45. Reading revolutionary prison memoirs The Country of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late Socialist Vietnam 21 45 Google Scholar

Affidi, Emmanuelle. “Nguyễn-Văn-Vĩnh, un fidèle interprète.” Vietnam, le destin du lotus, edited by Alain Guillemin, Riveneuve Éditions, 2010, pp. 92–98. Nguyễn-Văn-Vĩnh, un fidèle interprète Vietnam, le destin du lotus 92 98 Google Scholar

Álvarez, Román, and M. Carmen-África Vidal. “Translating: A political act.” Translation, Power, Subversion, edited by Román Álvarez and M. Carmen-África Vidal, Multilingual Matters, 1996, pp. 1–9. Translating: A political act Translation, Power, Subversion 1 9 Google Scholar

Arrojo, Rosemary. “Writing, interpreting, and the control of meaning.” Translation and Power, edited by Maria Tymoczko and Edwin Gentzler, U of Massachusetts P, 2002, pp. 63–79. Writing, interpreting, and the control of meaning Translation and Power 63 79 Google Scholar

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, editors. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures. Routledge, 1989. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures. Google Scholar

Bandia Paul F. “Post-colonial literature and translation.” Handbook of Translation Studies, edited by Yves Gambier and Luc Van Doorslaer. John Benjamins, 2010, pp. 264–269. Post-colonial literature and translation Handbook of Translation Studies 264 269 Google Scholar

Bassnett, Susan. “The meek or the mighty: Reappraising the role of the translator.” Translation, Power, Subversion, edited by Román Álvarez and M. Carmen-África Vidal, Multilingual Matters, 1996, pp. 10–24. The meek or the mighty: Reappraising the role of the translator Translation, Power, Subversion 10 24 Google Scholar

Bassnett, Susan and André Lefevere, editors. Translation, History and Culture, Pinter, 1990. Translation, History and Culture Google Scholar

Brocheux, Pierre. Histoire du Vietnam contemporain: La nation résiliente. Fayard, 2011. Histoire du Vietnam contemporain: La nation résiliente Google Scholar

Bassnett, Susan and Daniel Hémery. Indochine, la colonisation ambiguë 1858–1954, Éditions La Découverte, 2001. Indochine, la colonisation ambiguë 1858–1954 Google Scholar

Cooper, Nicola. France in Indochina: Colonial Encounters. Berg, 2001. France in Indochina: Colonial Encounters Google Scholar

DeFrancis, John. Colonialism and Language Policy in Vietnam. Mouton, 1977. Colonialism and Language Policy in Vietnam. Google Scholar

Gentzler, Edwin. “Translation, counter-culture, and The Fifties in the USA.” Translation, Power, Subversion, edited by Román Álvarez and M. Carmen-África Vidal. Multilingual Matters, 1996, pp. 116–137. Translation, counter-culture, and The Fifties in the USA The Fifties 116 137 Google Scholar

Gentzler, Edwin and Maria Tymoczko, editors. “Introduction.” Translation, Power, Subversion, U of Massachusetts P, 2002, pp. xi–xxviii. Introduction Translation, Power, Subversion xi xxviii Google Scholar

Gosha, Christopher E. Going Indochinese: Contesting Concepts of Space and Place in French Indochina. Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, 2012. Going Indochinese: Contesting Concepts of Space and Place in French Indochina. Google Scholar

Hartney, Christopher. “Đạo Cao Đài: A Vietnamese response to French colonialism.” Religious Transformation in Modern Asia, edited by David W. Kim, Brill, 2015, pp. 215–232. Đạo Cao Đài: A Vietnamese response to French colonialism Religious Transformation in Modern Asia 215 232 Google Scholar

Hồ, Biểu-Chánh. Ngọn Cỏ Gió Đùa (Blades of Grass in the Wind) [1926]. Nhà Xuất-Bản Văn-Hoá Sài-Gòn, 2006. Ngọn Cỏ Gió Đùa (Blades of Grass in the Wind Google Scholar

Hoskins, Janet A. The Divine Eye and the Diaspora: Vietnamese Syncretism Becomes Transpacific Caodaism. University of Hawai’i P, 2015. The Divine Eye and the Diaspora: Vietnamese Syncretism Becomes Transpacific Caodaism Google Scholar

Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables, translated by Nguyễn-Văn-Vĩnh, Trung-Bắc Tân-Văn, 1926. Les Misérables Google Scholar

Hutcheon, Linda, with Siobhan O’Flynn. A Theory of Adaptation. Routledge, 2013. A Theory of Adaptation Google Scholar

Jammes, Jérémy. Les Oracles du Cao Đài: Étude d’un mouvement religieux vietnamien et de ses réseaux. Les Indes Savantes, 2014. Les Oracles du Cao Đài: Étude d’un mouvement religieux vietnamien et de ses réseaux Google Scholar

Lê, Nicole-Dominique. Les missions-étrangères et la pénétration française au Viêt-Nam. Mouton & Co., 1995. Les missions-étrangères et la pénétration française au Viêt-Nam Google Scholar

Munday, Jeremy. Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications. Routledge, 2001. Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications Google Scholar

Nguyễn, Du. Kim-Vân-Kiều (The Tale of Kiều), translated by Huỳnh-Sanh-Thông, Yale University, 1983. Kim-Vân-Kiều Google Scholar

Nguyễn, Khuê. Chân Dung Hồ-Biểu-Chánh (A Portrait of Hồ-Biểu-Chánh). Lửa Thiêng, 1974. Chân Dung Hồ-Biểu-Chánh (A Portrait of Hồ-Biểu-Chánh) Google Scholar

Nguyễn, Văn-Hồng. Giới Thiệu Toà Thánh Tây-Ninh (Introduction to the Holy Temple in Tây-Ninh), 3 June 2016, www.daotam.info/booksv/pdf/pdf2/GT-ToaThanhTayNinh.pdf. Google Scholar

Nguyễn, Văn-Trung. “Les Misérables của Victor Hugo và Ngọn Cỏ Gió Đùa của Hồ-Biểu-Chánh.” (Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and Hồ-Biểu-Chánh’s Ngọn Cỏ Gió Đùa), 7 Jan. 2016, hobieuchanh.com/pages/baiviet/NguyenVanTrung/Lesmirerables_nvt.htm. Google Scholar

Nguyễn, Văn-Vĩnh, translator. Những Kẻ Khốn Nạn (Les Misérables). Trung-Bắc Tân-Văn, 1926. Những Kẻ Khốn Nạn (Les Misérables) Google Scholar

Oliver, Victor L. Caodai Spiritism: A Study of Religion in Vietnamese Society. Brill, 1976. Caodai Spiritism: A Study of Religion in Vietnamese Society Google Scholar

Phạm, Công-Tắc. “Sermon of his Holiness Hộ-Pháp Phạm-Công-Tắc,” Centre for Studies in Caodaism, 12 Jan. 2016, www.daotam.info/booksv/ltdcdhp.htm. Google Scholar

Raw, Lawrence. “Identifying common ground.” Translation, Adaption and Transformation, edited by Lawrence Raw, Continuum, 2012, pp. 1–20. Identifying common ground Translation, Adaption and Transformation 1 20 Google Scholar

Sanders, Julie. Adaptation and Appropriation. Routledge, 2006. Adaptation and Appropriation Google Scholar

Schafer, John C., and The-Uyen. “The novel emerges in Cochinchina.” Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 52, no. 4, 1993, pp. 854–884. The novel emerges in Cochinchina Journal of Asian Studies 52 854 884 Google Scholar

Tiffin, Helen. “Post-colonial literatures and counter-discourse.” The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures, edited by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, Routledge, 1995, pp. 95–98. Post-colonial literatures and counter-discourse The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures 95 98 Google Scholar

Trần, Thu-Dung. Le Caodaïsme et Victor Hugo. Université de Paris VII, 1996. PhD thesis. Le Caodaïsme et Victor Hugo Google Scholar

Vandal-Sirois, Hugo, and Georges L. Bastin. “Adaptation and appropriation: Is there a limit?” Translation, Adaption and Transformation, edited by Lawrence Raw, Continuum, 2012, pp. 21–41. Adaptation and appropriation: Is there a limit? Translation, Adaption and Transformation 21 41 Google Scholar

Zinoman, Peter. “Reading revolutionary prison memoirs.” The Country of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late Socialist Vietnam, edited by Hue-Tam Ho Tai, U of California P, 2001, pp. 21–45. Reading revolutionary prison memoirs The Country of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late Socialist Vietnam 21 45 Google Scholar

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Do, Tess