Scandal-ridden Czech writer to visit Vietnam

Published: 27/12/2009 05:00



Jan Cempirek has become famous in Czech after he was revealed as the author of White Horse, Yellow Dragon, which had won a prestigious annual award under the name of a Vietnamese girl.

Writer Jan Cempirek and the Vietnamese girl who played Pham Thi Lan in the video clip sent to the jury of the book award.


Bridge – Jan Cempirek has become famous in the Czech Republic after he was revealed as the author of White Horse, Yellow Dragon, which had won the annual award of a prestigious book club in Czech under the name of a Vietnamese girl: Pham Thi Lan.

The literary scandal that rocked the Czech Republic

Cempirek observed: “I have to continue this game because it opens a new topic, with new factors . . . and I plan to write about this ploy.” Does this game end? And how does it end? Saigon Tiep Thi newspaper interviewed Jan Cempirek to seen the answers.

Saigon Tiep Thi: Congratulation, Mr. Cempirek! You are now not only famous for winning a significant literary award, but also a talented actor who played another character. When did you have the idea to create Pham Thi Lan and why?

Jan Cempirek: The first time I thought of an alter ego for my novel was ten years ago. At that time, my friends and I performed an amateur play based on Boris Vian’s L’Herbe Rouge book. This French writer wrote novels under an alter ego – an American writer named Vernon Sullivan.

I told myself I can use this way in the Czech Republic, which had no tradition of using imaginary names. The community of Vietnamese in the Czech Republic comes from outside Europe, but it is strange that nobody in this community has published a book. I don’t understand why.

STT: In White Horse, Yellow Dragon, you used many English words. Is this difficult for you?

Cempirek: I have a relative who is a Czech-Vietnamese translator and he helped me a lot.

STT: Did playing the role of a 19-year-old girl affect your writing style?

Cempirek: This book was written in Czech-style clichés. Simply, it is about Czech views of the Vietnamese community’s thought on the Czech Republic. When I finished the book, I gave it to some Vietnamese friends and they said, “The book is good. The story may happen in Czech.” This is very important to me, confirmation from true Vietnamese.

STT: What are some misconceptions about the Vietnamese community?

Cempirek: If you want do discuss a topic, you need an interlocutor. The Vietnamese community lives quite closely and so do the Czech, too. Czech and Vietnamese often glide past each other in discussions. Czech people respect Vietnamese for their diligence, but Czech people think that most Vietnamese trade illegally. But that is a matter of law in Czech, I think.

STT: In your opinion, what is the most significant cultural heritage of humans that must be protected?

Cempirek: Freedom and tradition. Sometimes they exist antagonistically. Who knows why?

STT: You are quite famous in Vietnam where White Horse, Yellow Dragon may attract readers and a publishing house. Do you want your book translated into Vietnamese?

Cempirek: This question is very new to me. The book is full of clichés. I tried to write that way. For Czech people, these clichés are uncomfortable but for foreigners, they may be a small door that opens up the door to Czech people.

I understand that the book may be attractive to foreigners, but they forget that it was written sketchily. I actually didn’t think about it before you raised this question (smile).

You have been to many countries, but not Vietnam. Do you want to visit Vietnam in the future?

Cempirek: I will open a big website in about Southeast Asian countries ( in February 2010, so I hope to be in Vietnam by March 2010. Pham Thi Lan and I wish to visit Hạ Long Bay, as the initial name of my book is The Legend of Halong Bay.

What do you plan to do after the scandal related to the “White Horse, Yellow Dragon?”

Cempirek: I have two ideas. The first book is a story about two Czech politicians in the 1950s. The second book is about the Barevny deit art troupe, which gathers artists of different ethnic minorities in the Czech Republic.


Provide by Vietnam Travel

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