Parallel and deeply interacting with other cultural aspects, the Vietnamese literature came into being at an early date, including two major components – folk literature and written literature. Folk literature held a great significance in Vietnam and made immense contribution to preserving and developing the national language as well as nourishing the people’s soul. Folk literary works were diversified by mythologies, epics, legends, humorous stories, riddles, proverbs, folk-songs and so on… with many colourings of Vietnamese ethnic groups.
Written literature was born roughly in the 10th century. Up to the 20th century, there had been two components existing at the same time: works written in the Han characters (with poems and prose demonstrating the Vietnamese soul and realities; thus, they were still regarded as Vietnamese literature) and works written in the Nom character (mostly poems; many great works were handed down to the later generations). Since the ’20s of this century, written literature has been mainly composed in the National language with profound renovations in form and category such as novels, new-style poems, short stories and dramas… and with diversity in artistic tendency. Written literature attained speedy development after the August Revolution, when it was directed by the Vietnamese Communist Party’s guideline and focused on the people’s fighting and working life.
Admittedly, the whole Vietnamese nation likes poetry and composing poems – ranging from kings, mandarins, generals to monks, feudal scholars, and even revolutionaries. A farmer, an old boatman, a soldier all know some six-eight-word meters or satirical verses.
Regarding the content, the mainstream was the unyielding patriotic literature in every time and the anti-feudalist literature that was often expressed through the plight of women. Another important theme was the onslaughts against social vices. Great poets of the nation were all great humanists.
Modern Vietnamese literature has developed from romanticism to realism, from heroism in wartime to all aspects of life, and scoured into ordinary life to find out genuine values of the Vietnamese people.
Classical literature generated such masterpieces as Truyen Kieu (Nguyen Du), Cung oan ngam khuc (Nguyen Gia Thieu), Chinh phu ngam (Dang Tran Con), Quoc am thi tap (Nguyen Trai)… Vietnamese had some brilliant female poets like Ho Xuan Huong, Doan Thi Diem, Ba Huyen Thanh Quan… centuries ago.
In the Vietnamese modern prose, there were authors who could emulate with whoever in the world, namely, Nguyen Cong Hoan, Vu Trong Phung, Ngo Tat To, Nguyen Hong, Nguyen Tuan, Nam Cao… They were sided by excellent poets like Xuan Dieu, Huy Can, Han Mac Tu, Nguyen Binh… Regrettably, great works that faithfully reflect the country and the times have yet to appear.