Elevator in Saigon by Thuận, translated by Nguyễn An Lý

Elevator in Saigon by Thuận, translated by Nguyễn An Lý


Literature in Translation Series
Literary Fiction | Detective Fiction
Publication Date: July 9, 2024
5.25 x 8 inches
192 pages
Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781771668996

Trade Paperback

From the author of Chinatown comes a personal and political, tragic and bitingly satirical, ethereal journey through Hanoi, Saigon, Paris, Pyongyang, and Seoul.

A 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 rumoured 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 dies after mysteriously falling down the elevator shaft.

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

Still banned in Vietnam, Elevator in Saigon is a suspenseful novel that is part detective story, historical romance, postcolonial ghost story, and a biting satire of life in a communist state.


About the Author

THUẬN was born in 1967 in Hanoi. She studied at Pyatigorsk University  (Russia) and at la Sorbonne in Paris. She is the author of ten novels and a recipient of the Writers’ Union Prize, the highest award in Vietnamese literature. 7 of her novels were translated and published in France.Chinatown, her debut novel in English, won a PEN Translates Award, the 2023 ALTA National Translation Award, and was shortlisted for the 2023 Republic of Consciousness Prize. She currently lives in Paris.

NGUYỄN AN LÝ lives in Hochiminh City. She has over twenty translations into Vietnamese, published under various names and in various genres, including authors such as Margaret Atwood, Donna Tartt, Kazuo Ishiguro, Richard Flanagan, J. L. Borges, and the poetry in The Lord of the Rings. As an editor, she has worked on translations from Nabokov, A. S. Byatt, Roland Barthes, Joseph Campbell, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Liu Cixin, among others. Chinatown by Thuận, her debut translation into English, won an English PEN Translates Award and the 2023 ALTA National Translation Award in Prose. She co-founds and co-edits the independent online Zzz Review.