“Sat thu dau mung mu” or Killer with a soft head, a book on Vietnamese youth slang which was withdrawn from local bookstores last month for its alleged offensive language and content, has appeared on Amazon.
Under a publishing transfer between Vietnam’s Nha Nam Book and Fine Arts Publishing House and California-based Indochine Media Inc, the ebook is being sold on Amazon for US$7.99, mainly for overseas Vietnamese.
Duong Thanh Hoai, deputy director of Nha Nam Book, says that the book’s publishing in the overseas market was planned and signed with the foreign partner before it was officially released in Vietnam, not after the book was suspended in Vietnam.
“We are very glad because this is the first time a Vietnamese book is released internationally to serve overseas Vietnamese who want to know the new in Vietnamese language,” Hoai adds.
However, chief of the Publishing Agency, Nguyen Kiem, said that the publisher may violate Vietnam’s Publishing Law, specifically Article 25. According to Kiem, a book which is withdrawn from bookstores is not considered to be legal.
“From what I know, it is legal to publish book to abroad without permission from local government,” said Nha Nam Book’s deputy director Vu Hoang Giang in an interview with VTCNews.
Giang also said that it is incorrect to say that the book was withdrawn. “We are still waiting for the final decision from the Ministry of Information and Communications’ Publishing Department,” he added.
Literary critic Pham Xuan Nguyen said, “I appreciate the book more than works whose content and language are poor and dried up, for its rich, refreshing language.”
The picture book is made up of around 120 witty illustrations of rhyming urban street slang, adapted from original folk idioms and proverbs. It is illustrated by artist Thanh Phong , who won the Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Asian Youth Animation & Comics Contest.
Examples include: Chan nhu con gian (Tasteless like cockroaches), Cai kho lo cai ngu (Difficulty sparks stupidity), Dau kho nhu con ho (Writhe like a tiger) or Thu vui tao nha - Giat ta cho con (Stunning leisure - Washing diapers).
The book has caused a stir around the country. It has so far been loved and hated. Some critics have called it fantastic, while others say Phong has debauched the Vietnamese language by including slang adapted from original folk idioms and proverbs. They say his book is a cheap reflection of the “uncultured” lifestyle of local youths.
On October 21, the Ministry of Information and Communications’ Publishing Department asked the Fine Arts Publishing House to revaluate whether or not the content of the book is appropriate and educational. The publishing house on October 24 issued a recall of the book.
More than five thousand copies of the book have been sold since it was released in mid-October. Many readers consider the ban meaningless.
“Phong’s book is another testimony that shows how out-of-date and dogmatic our administration is,” commented online reader Ha Nguyen on the Tuoi Tre website. “How could these sayings and easy-to-forget sentences ruin the native language? The funny pictures really entertain me. They cannot just sit there and decide for sure that the book have a negative impact on our lives. Many people have florid words but corrupt morals and behavior.”
Public relations executive Nguyen Le said that youth slang is based on the characteristics of each generation. She said that following and understanding slang is a good way to keep up with and understand youth culture.
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