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.