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Home » Uncategorized » “Beginning” – Lodge’s Idea – Paradise of the Blind Link – Sadeem F

“Beginning” – Lodge’s Idea – Paradise of the Blind Link – Sadeem F

The book by Lodge has many interesting ideas and insights to the choices authors make in literature. The chapter I had was titled ‘Beginning’; at first I thought it would be a simple chapter on how beginnings are written, but I was surprised at how much it made me think about things I’ve never thought about before. It made me realize that so much of a book is due to interpretation of the reader, the author can only do so much. Much of the way a book is understood, is based off of how the reader chooses to understand it. It also made me realize the significance of the way a book is started, how the author choses to grab a reader’s attention. 

The main points of this chapter were based off of questions, the questions, “when does a book really begin?” and “how should a book begin?” were two main ones that the chapter revolved around. Lodge gives examples of books being started different ways, one way being in Ford Madox Ford’s book The Good Soldier. He started this book very abruptly, the first sentence being, “This is the saddest story I have ever heard.” (Ford, The Good Soldier) Lodge describes this beginning sentence as a glove, a glove with a very captivating intention. Ford intended to grab your attention, making you question things like, “What is that sad story? Is he sure this is the saddest? Have I been through something more sad?” etc. (Lodge, 6) Lodge gives many more examples as to ways a book could open up: describing of setting character and other main aspects, during a conversation, mid-sentence, etc. 

What related to Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong the most, and caught my attention, was the couple sentences where he discusses whether or not a book ever genuinely begins; and where a book begins if if does have a beginning. With help of Lodge’s work I discovered four possible beginnings to the book by Huong: the first chapter, the translators note, the flashbacks, the birth of the main character [not specifically written about].  

Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong has a chapter one, therefore first thing I thought was, it begins there. Starting off simple, chapter 1 is the first possible beginning. Huong opens the book mid-conversation, which is significant because she chose to throw the reader directly into the story with no introduction, “She looked at me and said: “Poor little one. You really don’t have much luck.”” (Huong, 11) This is the first possible way to think of the book starting, a great way to make the reader pressured into being a part of the book. Authors do this to get you attached, their goal is to write pieces and have the reader feel with the characters, Huong chose to start off this way to make you feel obligated to find out who the poor little one is, what’s wrong with her, who even is speaking.

Another place I feel the book “began” would be the translators note. I doubt any of you even took a look at the translators note (good job if you did), but it really adds on to the novel itself. When authors put background information or notes in the beginning of books, they’re usually there for a reason. In this case, if I didn’t read the translators note before starting the chapters, I would have not been able to understand what was going on. This book was originally written in Vietnamese, so the translators note basically explains the context. For example she states, “Like hundreds of thousands pf young Vietnamese… who came to adulthood after the end of the Vietnamese War in 1975, Hang has been forced…to cut short her education and become an “exported worker” in what was the Soviet Union.” (Huong, 5) I feel as though without the translators note being in the beginning, the book would have not been complete; and also would have been hard to get emotionally involved into, which is all the author wanted. 

Books aren’t typically written from the birth to the death of the main character, and a character has to grow and develop. Ever question how a character turned out a certain way? Why they chose a certain path versus the other? If you have these questions about a certain character than one could argue that the book is not complete; therefore the beginning is at the birth of this characters life. Even if this information isn’t written in the text, the things that developed/made the character who they are, are significant. A beginning of a book could possibly be an imagined-beginning of a character’s life. The book could have actually began at Hang’s birth [that wasn’t even discussed, although we know it happened]. 

Sort of tying in with the last type of beginning, there are flashbacks that we have to take into consideration. Huong puts in many flashbacks throughout the novel, even flashbacks dating back to before Hang was born. During Hang’s trip to visit her sick uncle, Hang remembers a story about her mother during the Section for Land Reform. A flashback to her mother after the Vietnamese war ended was shown, so this brings us to the question, did the book begin at the current location of the conversation in Moscow, or from the flashbacks? Huong scatters many flashbacks throughout the book, each one giving you another piece to the past; with all these flashbacks you can somewhat form a beginning to the story. 

So the question is, where does Paradise of the Blind begin? The answer to this question is honestly, wherever you think it begins. Each person is going to understand the book differently based on the way they take it in.




Hương, Dương Thu. Paradise of the Blind. Trans. Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPherson. New York: Perennial, 2002. Print.

Lodge, David. The Art of Fiction. Vintage, 2011. Print.




  1. Dalia Abdel-Latif says:

    I enjoyed this blogpost about beginning. I never thought that a book could have different beginnings depending on the reader’s interpretation. I now believe it makes most sense for the story to begin at Hang’s birth since overall the novel is about Hang’s struggle to live under a corrupt communist society. This struggle obviously began at her birth.

  2. nehakamalik says:

    Hi Sadeem!! I find your analysis of this Lodge chapter and relation to the novel really eye-opening. I always thought of books just starting at ‘Chapter One’ like you mentioned. Your idea of the translators note being beginning the novel contradicts this and was something I didn’t think about before, as I rarely read translator notes. According to the Lodge chapter’s information on beginnings and what you’ve seen throughout the book, could you tell me where you personally believe the novel begins? Seeing your argument for doing so may help me better understand the concept and the applications of beginnings.

    • sadeemfaden says:

      Thank youuu, I personally believe the book begins at Hangs birth. I feel as though we need to understand her full life story to understand just the little fraction of her life Paradise of the Blind gives us. Her birth and translators note are two main ones to me.

  3. kabli00 says:

    I liked how you gave four possible beginnings to the book, but I think that there’s a difference between the book and the story. If you’re considering the story of Hang, you could say it starts at her birth. The story of her family, or the story of communism in Vietnam or whatever, starts much earlier than that. The book, though, starts at chapter one. The book is just the method the author uses to tell the story she/he wants to share, which, as you mentioned, isn’t always the story the reader takes away from the book. The translator’s note could be the start of the story that the reader takes away.

    • sadeemfaden says:

      Wait bro that’s actually so interesting,, I never thought of the story and the book as two separate things. I always took Hangs life in general as the beginning of the story/book. That makes sense though, I would probably say the book begins at chapter one but the story begins at her birth and/or translators note.

  4. hajarabi says:

    Sadeem I really enjoyed reading your blogpost, I found it very interesting how you talked about the beginnings and related it very nicely to the novel. I never really thought that there could be different beginnings to a novel and that it won’t necessarily always begin with “Chapter One”. But could start with the translators note since the story is all about Hang and his perspective, so it would only make sense for his birth to be the beginnning of the story.

  5. hamani07 says:

    this is a very good blogpost overall. you made some very good insights that made me investigate on own, like when you said that the novel’s beginning could be at the translator’s note, i saw that to be pretty clever so i went back to check and it very well could be, it gives some context, background and things to keep in mind that could have changed because of translation. and you said that Hangs birth is the starting point of the book which is interesting because it is when the struggles of the main character begins and where all of the things start to revolve around one person. the paragraphs were smoothly flowing from one to the next, and although it was long you stayed on topic throughout the whole post and the length seemed appropriate according to this particulate topic.

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