French novel translated into Vietnamese by moto courier sensation

By Que Chi   July 29, 2023 | 12:45 am PT
“Con Gai” (Girl), the Vietnamese version of “Fille” by Camille Laurens and the debut translation work of Huynh Huu Phuoc, a motorbike courier well-known for speaking French, was released this month.

A representative of the the Vietnam Women’s Publishing House said: "We hope the story of Phuoc’s strong determination inspires other young people to pursue their dreams."

Huynh Huu Phuoc working as a motorbike courier. Photo courtesy of Phuoc

Huynh Huu Phuoc working as a motorbike courier. Photo courtesy of Phuoc

Phuoc started the translation around two years ago, when a friend who was initially in charge of translating it, got busy and asked for his help.

Initially hesitant due to a lack of translation experience, he eventually agreed.

The two friends then divided their work: Phuoc’s friend would translate a few first and last pages of the book, while Phuoc would be in charge of the rest.

It took Phuoc from December 2021 to June 2022, to finish the translation while still maintaining his job as a motorbike courier.

His working day usually started at 7 a.m., and he brought a hard copy of the book with him to hand write the translation in his free time, then revise and type it upon reaching home at night.

The 26-year-old man said the book evoked strong emotions.

"I want to spread the message of appreciation towards women, as well as criticize the discrimination and unfairness that women have to deal with," he said.

Phuoc said he had difficulties balancing his two jobs, and suffered panic attacks. He had to consult with a therapist during that time, but eventually overcame his hardships, both mentally and financially, thanks to his passion for literature.

Though Phuoc lacked experience initially, the publishing house was supportive of him as he was willing to learn from others and improve.

He has shown a strong desire to continue working as a translator, and his translation is considered cohesive.

Phuoc studied French from grades 1-9 before attending the HCMC University of Education in 2015. He had to reserve his studies in 2019 and take up multiple jobs, ranging from restaurant waiter to motorbike courier, to cover his and his mother’s living expenses.

He became widely known last year when he was seen speaking with French novelist Marc Levy at a book event. Many Vietnamese were surprised that the humble courier had such strong command of a foreign language and reached out to support him in his further education.

Phuoc said he wanted to spend more time translating books in the future.

"My achievements are a gift to my mother," he said. "I’m studying Japanese to read Japanese books released in the 20th century. I hope I can support students that suffer from the same situation as mine."

Camille Laurens, born Laurence Ruel, is a French writer and winner of the 2000 Prix Femina, a prestigious French literary prize.

Her work "Fille" revolves around the character Laurence Barraqué’s experience as a girl, a woman, and a mother in French society.

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