Kim Thúy signing autographs at Filbo 2023.
The author during an autograph signing session. Photo: @FILBogota.

Kim Thúy, literature and gastronomy at Filbo 2023

The Vietnamese writer, winner of the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize in Literature,’ gave a very flavorful talk.


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The 35th edition of the Bogotá International Book Fair was the perfect setting for the novelist and chef to leave her impressions around the territory and uprooting, as well as her relationship with cooking during a talk with Joanne Rochette, author of ‘La risa de García,’ a novel that narrates the life of a Quebecer in Colombia.

Born in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1968, Kim Thúy, who is the winner of the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize in Literature,’ an award devised by a group of Swedish writers, librarians and artists to fill the void of the Nobel Prize in Literature that was not awarded in 2018 by account of a scandal in the organization, presented her work ‘Beauty and Happiness Under the Mantle of Pain.’

The combination of stories in daily social contexts of some immigrants abroad, along with her research work, reflect the nuance of the lives of her environment and even her own, all with the background of the Vietnam War. The incredible stories of Thúy, in addition to exposing the migratory experience, narrate how her adaptation process has been when facing a new culture, a central theme in this edition of Filbo, which emphasizes on roots and uprooting,reads a review of Filbo 2023.

Harsh Childhood

Thúy, who became famous thanks to the success of her first novel, ‘Ru,’ had to flee Vietnam at the age of 10 in an emergency boat because of the war that broke out in the Asian country.

Before arriving in Canada, the country that welcomed her and where she currently resides, the writer and her family were victims of various abuses in a refugee camp in Kuantan, Malaysia.

We had infections in our bodies, we only had one liter of water a day to bathe, drink and maintain ourselves. We were very sick. The most beautiful gift that Canadians could give us was an opportunity, they looked at us as gifts from heaven, they gave us back the dignity that we have as human beings,” highlighted Thúy in the middle of the conversation about flavors and traditions, a topic that makes part of the work that she presented at Filbo 2023.

Professional trip

In the talk, held thanks to the fair's alliance with the Canadian and Swedish Embassies in Colombia, as well as the International Literary Festival Blue Metropolis in Montreal, the novelist recounted how during her professional training she sought to learn various trades, among which she highlighted that of interpreter.

Despite the fact that she initially obtained the worst grades and her teachers encouraged her to drop out, arguing that this was not a job for her, Thúy, who is currently fluent in several languages, managed to graduate with a degree in linguistics and translation.

Before starting to write, in 2009, and before starting her gastronomic activity professionally, Thúy also graduated as a lawyer.

Thúy has become a well-known writer with works such as ‘Ru,’ and ‘Mãn and Vi, a tiny woman,’ novels where she shows the reality and the privileges that she did not have in her country, talking about uprooting, territory, and the importance of mothers, intensely mixing the realities of her mother and herself.

According to Filbo, in her novels, the writer narrates the close relationship of migrants and their life in conflict, highlighting the beautiful things beyond the moments of pain.

Thúy highlighted:

With the writing, I wanted to tell that despite all the follies of humanity, life is still beautiful. My job is to give them the detail that will lead them to imagine.

Gastronomic Facet

Also recognized as an expert in gastronomy, Thúy also had a space in which she prepared a yam croquette, one of the dishes mentioned in her books, in the company of chef Leandro Carvajal.

Literature and cooking have that point of relationship, generating many emotions and memories. Food does not heal you, it is the memory of the person you loved, who made you that food, love is what heals,” said Thúy.


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