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Read a book with friends: Buddha’s story, life’s story

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You must be familiar with the writer’s name. Before being a writer, Ho Anh Thai was a diplomat, worked in many countries, and earned a doctorate in Oriental culture. He has been a visiting lecturer at the University of Washington (USA) and a number of other foreign universities. As a writer, Ho Anh Thai has published more than forty books of various genres: novels, short stories, essays, travel books. His books have been translated and printed in several countries.

“The Buddha, the queen and the spy” is the latest work of Ho Anh Thai in the series of Indian themes that he has written for many years. Before this book he had books: “Sighing through the gorse forest” (collection of short stories), “The Buddha, Savitri and I” (novel), “Namaskar, hello” (edit). It is the result of the writer’s research and accumulation about the Indian “subcontinent” during the period when he was a diplomat in this country and since then he has been passionate about it.


Author: Ho Anh Thai

Young Publisher, 2022

Number of pages: 225 (size 13x20cm)

Quantity: 3000

Selling price: 95,000 VND

As the title suggests, this new work by Ho Anh Thai tells three stories. The story of the Buddha with the kingdom of Vamasa, where although there is a Buddhist congregation, the Buddha’s theory has not been accepted by the secular emir. The story of a poor girl at a low caste in the Brahmin society who was raped so she was forced to become a queen, leading a band of robbers to take revenge on the rich and lustful in a macabre form – cut off their harmful penis. The story of a boy who, because of an unsuccessful love affair with a princess who later became queen of another emirate, had to play the role of a spy planted in the congregation in that emirate to still be close to his lover. .

The three intertwining stories are interwoven by the author with three first-person narrator Govinda, queen Samavati, and third-person narrator about the Buddha. In the story of the Buddha we can learn a few things about his missionary process as well as the history of Buddhism. At the end of the book, the author makes a timetable about the events related to the novel, gives some documents about the Vamsa emirate, notes some historical characters appearing in the novel as well as tells some Fictional characters have many real identities in history. In the story of the queen we can learn about the social life of India when Brahmanism was reigning and Buddhism was just beginning. The same is true of Queen Samavati, when she began to believe in the Buddhist enlightenment theory despite the suspicions and objections of her king-in-law, only to end up being deceived and burned to death in her room. In the story of the spy we can know the eternal twist of unrequited love.

But in the end what is the message of the story? There are many messages, including this one: that according to Buddhist teachings, hatred should be untied and should not be tied. Manju’s mother, the queen, advised her so. And she dispersed her band of robbers, took refuge in the Buddha’s door. “I was led to the corner of the garden. There was a young Bodhi tree, plucked from an ancient Bodhi tree. I shoveled the ground and planted the Bodhi tree with my own hands. The sapling of today will become the tree of tomorrow. A person who has just been reborn in a new light is nurturing a sprout, symbolizing that person’s new life.” (p. 186). But in the end she was still killed by the arrow of a man who had been castrated by her.

The author writes: “Manju stared, his gaze penetrating all that was inside and outside of him. – No. Now is the time to end. End the endless vicious cycle of revenge. The culprit is out there. We know who they are.“The queen knows who her killer is according to the reason of revenge, but after her death the revenge is still not over. The author’s ending is for Dr. Kirit, who performs the task of castrating the offender when being bullied. Manju bandits capture, try to bring the long poisoned adopted daughter into the palace to poison King Udena, the head of the state of Vamasa.This plot has been arranged in advance by Manju. it’s a Vishkanya”a poison, not only a poison but a poison, a person whose whole body is a potion of poison.” (p. 210).

The story ends in the narration by Govinda the actress and this is the conclusion of the whole work: “I led the girl away, but my mother impersonated the father who was standing behind and watching. Looking along. The father knows very well that each Vishkanya is a poison to be used only once and then discarded. When the plan was successful, the girl could not run out of the palace. It will never run out to this side of the river.” (p. 213). That means that the revenge story is not certain to end.

Ho Anh Thai’s stories have language and atmosphere in everyday life, hidden deep in cultural and religious knowledge, and have a humorous taste. The story that the young man had to disguise himself as a monk to play a spy but still couldn’t stop his interest in eating fried fish, so he had to sneak out a few times a month as a commoner to eat fish made the reader interested first of all. You can laugh, understand a feature of the life of the Indian people on the banks of the Ganges River, before linking to the story to understand the author’s hidden meaning. At the end of the book, there is an afterword by Dr. Le Thi Huong titled “The Pervasiveness of Mysterious India” presenting a way to read this work for readers’ reference.

See you next time with other new books!

Hanoi, May 17, 2022.

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