It is my greatest pleasure to share with you my thoughts and reflections on Huynh Cong Anh’s newest creations. Perhaps, many of us know of him as a musician and songwriter more than a poet and writer. But today, we are actually focusing on his latest poetry work and a memoir along with a compilation of his songs which derived from his collection of poems for over 40 years.
Huynh Cong Anh’s genre of poetry and music denotes the patriotic and undominatable character of the Vietnamese people who continue to carry on their quest for freedom and to preserve their Lac Hong heritage.
“Cat Bui Lan Tram” is a collection of poems depicting the sentiments and life’s journey of a man whose soul was ladened with his heartbreak for the loss of his country. There are dark passages that illustrate how the Vietnamese people sustain violence and immorality. Yet, despite living under aggressive and oppressive conditions, they could still regain such strength to survive. Through such endeavors, they hope to find true humanity among the ruthlessness of their rulers.
I applaud Huynh Cong Anh’s skills and talents in using his poetry and music to survive through life’s challenges. In fact, his poems and songs are not just for recitals as a means of entertainment but they speak volume in translating the hope for decent humanity, the strength to escape for freedom, and the perseverance to reclaim human right and love.
I have always been reluctant in sharing my view on “Memoirs”. Memoirs recount a person’s course of life. His or her point of view, thoughts, and actions are very much a personal experience. For me as a reviewer, my opinions could inevitably be misconstrued or controversial. Nevertheless, having read many of his poems and then I had the pleasure to meet Huynh Cong Anh a year ago, I could actually identify the man with his creations. And no doubt, I accepted when he asked me to share my view on his books.
The main topic of today’s presentation is his Memoir “Escape to Freedom…” In his opening chapter, he simply states: Life goes on…What is remained is collected herein…” His memoir…It is just that simple! His many roles in the literary and philosophical collections of his life experiences—from a soldier to songwriter and poet to prisoner—can simply be summarized in one word: Scholar!
In his duty to his family, he made sure he provided for his children. In the community and for his country, he fulfilled his duties of a warrior setting his top priority to serve his country, embrace Honor, and fulfill his Duty. His simple wish as conveyed through his memoir is that “my only wish and aspiration is to fulfill my role as a witness of our country’s history.” As a scholar, he is doing just that… sharing everything that had happened to his country as he had witnessed. He also hopes that his stories will reach the younger generations and his children. Perhaps, they will realize the truth. How their parents had endured and survived through all hardships to give them the life that they now enjoy.
The simplicity of his language and his story telling style throughout his books make it very easy and interesting for the readers to follow. As a fraternity of arms, I went through similar deprivation. Our joint heritage of suffering and hardship had indeed brought us closer together in bonds of sympathy and friendship. I laugh with his joy, feel his pains, and cry with him over our loss.
For over 42 years, for many of us soldiers recollecting that faithful day, we all commiserate the pains and humiliation of an elite army that was forced to lose to a bunch of savages. We all died with our country on April 30, 1975.
In “Escape to Freedom”, I have to admit Huynh Cong Anh is indeed an incredible and superb prisoner and escapee, outsmarting the entire Communist prison system and overcoming Mother Nature’s cruelty to bring his people out of bondage and into freedom. At the time when his spirit hit rock bottom, he persisted and emerged an even stronger character because he still had responsibility and duty to his family and country.
During his sea escapes, he was robbed 3 times. But the key message here is that losing material items is not worth a discussion. For us soldiers, it has a subliminal meaning as we have actually lost the most valuable item in our life: our soldier’s motto—Country, Honor, and Duty.
Huynh Cong Anh’s life journey takes us through 21 chapters…exhibiting both his military duty and human compassion. We live with him through the glory of an officer and a gentleman, to the hidden horrors of a prisoner’s life in re-education camp, and to the challenges and triumphs of an escapee who finally reached the land of freedom. He never stops his fight for freedom for his people. In America, he maintains active by using music to motivate young people inside and outside of Vietnam to partake in their demand for freedom. His accomplishments and accolades are numerous.
When you can really understand this feeling of loss, misfortunes, accomplishments, and self-reclaim, please pick up the book. Read it to feel as though you were traveling along with the author through every moment in the history of Vietnam.
Thank you. Wishing you and your family good health and happiness.