Elevator in Sài Gòn

Thuận

Thuận draws ingeniously on the pacing and tropes of detective fiction to craft a layered tale of family secrets. Readers will be rapt.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Personal and political, tragic and bitingly satirical, an ethereal journey through Hanoi, Saigon, Paris, Pyongyang, and Seoul

Available Aug, 06 2024

Elevator in Sài Gòn

Fiction by Thuận

Translated by Nguyễn An Lý

A young Vietnamese woman living in Paris travels back to Saigon for her estranged mother’s funeral. Her brother had recently built a new house in Saigon, and staged a grotesquely lavish ceremony for their mother to inaugurate what was rumored to be the first elevator in a private home in the country. But shortly after the ceremony, in the middle of the night, their mother mysteriously fell down the elevator shaft, dying in an instant.

After the funeral, the daughter becomes increasingly fascinated with her family’s history, and begins to investigate and track an enigmatic figure, Paul Polotsky, who emerges from her mother’s notebook. Like an amateur sleuth, she trails Polotsky through the streets of Paris, sneaking behind him as he goes about his usual routines. Meanwhile, she also researches her mother’s past—zigzagging across France and Asia—trying to find clues to the spiraling, deepening questions her mother left behind unanswered—and perhaps unanswerable.

Still banned in Vietnam, Elevator in Sài Gòn is a thrilling novel combining elements of the detective thriller, historical romance, postcolonial ghost story, and a scathing satire of life in a communist state.

Paperback(published Aug, 06 2024)

ISBN
9780811238540
Price US
16.95
Trim Size
5x8
Page Count
192

Ebook

ISBN
9780811238557
Portrait of Thuận

Thuận

Vietnamese novelist

Thuận draws ingeniously on the pacing and tropes of detective fiction to craft a layered tale of family secrets. Readers will be rapt.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Elevator in Sài Gòn is a literal and structural exquisite corpse, capturing Vietnam's eventful period from 1954 to 2004. Mimicking an elevator's movement, the novel heightens our yearning for romance and mystery, while unflinchingly exposing such narrative shaft. Channeling Marguerite Duras and Patrick Modiano, the book also offers a dead-on tour of a society cunningly leaping from one ideological mode to the next. As if challenging Rick's parting words to Ilsa in Casablanca, Thuận's sophomore novel in English implies that geopolitical debacles might have been mitigated if personal relations were held in more elevated regard than ‘a hill of beans.’

Thúy Đinh, NPR
Thuận deftly amalgamates convoluted family dynamics, political and colonial history, immigration challenges, and identity interrogations to realize more unknowing, not-knowing, and can’t-know than definitive truths. No matter: literary rewards await.


Terry Hong, Booklist

Thuận has a sharp eye for detail, describing “a Hanoian voice of the kind that could now rarely be heard, and only in Sài Gòn or in Paris, a Hanoian voice that belongs to a Hanoian who has been away from Hà Nội for at least half a century.” Her themes of identity and estrangement unfold within a series of mysteries, like a set of Matryoshka dolls.

Kirkus Reviews