Made-up tutor 3
December 30, 2011
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Truk Ven Ut Ngo is one of the foremost Vietnamese writers working in Britain and one of the OU’s oldest academics. He was born in 1934, and witnessed the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, between French colonial forces and the Viet Minh. This was an experience which was to have a profound effect on his work.
His early writing is lyrical, poetic, and introspectively philosophical. It includes short stories (Dreams of White Lotus, The Lamps of Solace, Sapphire Visions) and a stage play (How Much Longer Does This Go On For, Daddy?) He eked out a meagre living by writing short pieces while working on his magnum opus, Ascending Mount Gabrielle. This is a book not about characters, but about forces, and refers to the French name of a feature of the terrain of the battlefield at Dien Bien Phu.
His further work went gradually south: Ascending Mount Beatrice, Ascending Mount Anne-Marie (in two volumes, reflecting the fact that there are twin mounts), Ascending Mount Dominique, Ascending Mount Claudine, Ascending Mount Eliane, and finally Ascending Mount Isabelle. By this time, he had mapped, both figuratively and literally, the whole battleground.
Since joining the OU, he has written three retrospective works of short fiction, Did I Ever Mention I Was At Dien Bien Phu?, The Bloody Battle, and Will You Ever Shut Up About That Bloody Battle?
When asked to characterise his approach to teaching creative writing, his reply demonstrated both his philosophical outlook and his mastery of British colloquialisms: “If any of those twats can’t write, why expect me to do owt about it?”