Inkshed: A poet’s view on the Vietnam by Gjekë Marinaj is available on Amazon
How can literature help clarify the meaning of the Vietnam War? This study, written by an award-winning poet, both considers and looks beyond the war’s dimensions of ideological, geopolitical and military conflict. In the Vietnam War, human eloquence, as a cultural force, proved decisive for historical outcomes. For each side in the war, cultural factors ultimately eclipsed those of doctrine, economics and technology. Through attentiveness to the role of literature, literacy, tradition and ferment, author Gjekë Marinaj, PhD, highlights the depth of Vietnamese culture, chronically underestimated by the West. Marinaj also pays tribute to the growing influence of truth-telling voices in the United States, where the peace and civil rights movements catalyzed broader questioning of the war’s justness. In Vietnam, heritage bolstered resistance, while in America, courage and cultural dialectics helped secure the war’s end and canonization as a nightmare. Inspired by the author’s stays in Vietnam, interwoven original poems underscore Inkshed’s case for shedding ink, not blood, for the cause of a better future. Among many honors, Gjekë Marinaj has received two National Insignia Prizes from the Vietnam Writers Association, recognizing his translation of Ho Chi Minh’s Prison Diary and his scholarly work for the cause of Vietnam s Literature and Arts.
Publisher : Orpheus Texts (December 20, 2020)
Paperback : 192 pages
ISBN-13 : 978-0939378098
Item Weight : 9.9 ounces
Best Sellers Rank: #7,568,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
With so many books about the Vietnam War lining the shelves of libraries and bookstores, readers may be leery of yet another book like the one you hold in your hands. But Gjekë Marinaj makes it very clear in his introduction that this book is not meant to be a work of history; rather, he wrote it to illustrate how the conflict in Vietnam impacted the humanities. He specifically sets out under the premise that the literature emanating from that troubled time serves as an important tool in deciphering the thoughts, motivations and emotions of both the Vietnamese and the American soldiers who found themselves entangled in the war a war that, as Marinaj perceptively observes, they did not want to fight but did not want to lose. Even so, no one can write about any aspect of this or any other war without straying into the field of history. Tags like history, literature and philosophy are, after all, human-made categories imposed on subjects that overlap and intertwine. With this overlap in mind, Marinaj opens this illuminating book with an exploration of the American mindset at the start of the conflict. Instead of just making an obvious assertion about America s good intentions upon entering the melee, he probes further and explores how America s belief in itself as an invincible embodiment of democratic freedom seemed like a sound motivation for pursuing the course of action taken. He looks even deeper by considering why believing otherwise was unacceptable to many if not most Americans at that time. While it is common knowledge that a failure of understanding lay behind America s defeat, Marinaj makes the bold and seemingly implausible claim that a better understanding of the role of literature and poetry in Vietnamese society would have offered priceless insights into a people and culture with which the United States was not adequately familiar. I say seemingly implausible because he defends his claim convincingly. The reader learns, for example, that Vietnam is the only country in the world that has a temple of literature still standing (in Hanoi). Literature, and poetry in particular, has played and still plays a part in the daily lives of the Vietnamese. Marinaj s many sources include Sun Tzu s The Art of War, written 2,500 years ago, and journalist David Halberstam s biography of Ho Chi Minh, simply titled Ho, first published in 1971. He suggests that the Viet Cong must have been familiar with Sun Tzu s work, because the Vietnamese defeated their enemies largely by breaking their will as Sun Tzu directs. Vietnam s French adversaries failed to see that they were dealing with a literate people who had a quiet but strong sense of dignity. They overlooked what the Vietnamese knew all too well: war is an extremely complex social activity usually driven by poverty. Marinaj comments on the irony of this seemingly willful French blindness, given that namely poverty led to the overthrow of the aristocracy in the French Revolution of 1789 1799. He describes at length how the French government, in a manner similar to the French aristocracy of old, blindly ignored economic factors operating in Vietnam during the period of 1946 to 1954. The north s impoverishment should have been but was not a major political concern. Tensions had begun long before, when officials from Paris had come ostensibly to carry out a civilizing mission (mission civilisatrice) in Indochina. But they really came to keep the price of imported raw materials low and to provide a cheap source of labor for the rubber plantations and coalmines along the coast of Tonkin. The social injustice inherent in French colonialism gave Ho Chi Minh a reason to call for revolution in 1930. The French worsened Vietnamese resentment by failing to protect them from invasion by the Japanese during the Second Wor… –By Prof. David Leitnick
Reading Gjekë Marinaj s unusual and important book Inkshed: A poet s view on the Vietnam War brought back an experience of my own some years ago in Vietnam. His book made me realize what it was that I had felt at the time, and in a way that seems to offer an alternative perspective on other wars, one which transcends the debating points, entrenched positions and embittered opinions of the usual public journalistic discourse. Marinaj s book is unusual in not seeing the Vietnam War in the same geopolitical, ideological, military, sociological or economic terms that the conflict usually elicits. He views it instead as a sort of tragic collision of poetries that, did they but know it, might have been sisters under the skin. Marinaj, another member of that strange powerless international republic of poets, is himself known all over the Balkans as a sort of prophet of that love of poetry that all the bitterly hostile factions, creeds and ethnic groups of that region have in common. He knows that at bottom people will not fight wars unless they are inspired by some beautiful passion, a poetic song that has been tragically misplaced, and that all the socio-economico-political reasons for war are but a distorting mask for that impulse. He knows that the fighters, could they but hear the poetry of their brothers and sisters on the other side, might see as their common enemy the reduction of the human self to a unit of a stereotyped and hated group. What drives them to fight is, sadly, what they share and could make them friends: poetry. When the old poetry of the American soldier failed, replaced by the new, vital poetry of protest, the war was lost as surely as Napoleon s Russian war, in Tolstoy s account. And it was the passionate poetry of the Vietnamese soldier that won a war against impossible odds. –By Prof. Frederick Turner
Albanian-American poet, writer, translator, literary critic, publisher and philosopher Gjekë Marinaj, PhD, has been crossing borders all his life. In speaking freely, he stepped past the limits of his native Albania s former communist regime. In supporting human understanding, he has traversed geographic boundaries between nations, moving from Albania to Yugoslavia, then the United States, his adopted country of residency, which he has made a base for far-ranging cultural diplomacy. In advocating for interdisciplinary interaction beyond linguistic, political and intellectual borders, Marinaj has gained an international reputation as a mediator for literature and philosophy in society. In 2019, Marinaj s native Albania granted him the title of Nation s Ambassador, reflecting his contribution to Albanian and world literature and culture through poetry, prose, journalism, literary criticism, philosophy and academic teaching. Dr. Marinaj currently serves as the director of Mundus Artium Press and as the editor of Mundus Artium (a Journal of International Literature and the Arts). He teaches English and Communications, including world literature, at Richland College in Dallas. An American citizen, he lives with his wife Dusita in McKinney, Texas. Collections of Marinaj s poetry and prose include Do Not Depart From Me, Infinite, Prayer on the Eighth Day of the Week, The Other Side of the Mirror and Some Things Can t Be Kept Secret. His more than twenty books have been translated and published in more than a dozen languages, including Albanian, Romanian, Serbian, German, Italian, Russian, Vietnamese, Azerbaijani, Uzbek, French, Lao, Bengali and Spanish. In addition to editing myriad books in a range of languages, he has translated several books from English to Albanian, two from Albanian to English, and two from Vietnamese to Albanian. He has served as a guest editor for Translation Review and as editor-in-chief for Pena International. As a poet, critic and philosopher, Marinaj has given numerous professional presentations in the United States, Albania, India, Italy, Vietnam, Mexico, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Ireland, the United Kingdom and other nations. In varied international contexts, he has conducted and been the subject of numerous media interviews, focused on culture and society. In his ongoing interaction with the Asia Pacific, his in-person initiatives have included, in Vietnam, supporting the launch of his Albanian translation of Ho Chi Minh s Prison Diary, and in Kolkata, India, participating in the World Thinkers and Writers Peace Meet, where an award from the International Society for Intercultural Studies and Research honored his literary cultivation of universality and harmony. In addition to the Nation s Ambassador Award, Marinaj has received major international literary prizes and honors including the 2020 KS International Special Literary Prize; the Albanian BookerMan Prize; the Pjetër Arbnori Prize, awarded by Albania s Ministry of Tourism, Cultural Affairs, Youth and Sports; the Sojurin Prize; the Golden Pen Award; from the Vietnam Writers Association, two National Insignia Prizes for his translation of Ho Chi Minh s Prison Diary and for scholarly work for the cause of Vietnam s Literature and Arts ; M. Madhe s Citizen of Honor Award; and Italy s International Author Prize. He is the recipient of an award, presented in Kolkata, India, by the International Society for Intercultural Studies and Research (ISISAR) at the World Thinkers and Writers Peace Meet on Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation, for his quest for peace through literature. The Underground Literature Movement and the Platform Literary Journal presented Marinaj with the Salutation to the World Poet award for maintaining cultural world traditions of Literature.