Legends from Serene Lands, the book of Vietnamese folk tales translated by Australian author Harry Aveling (Source: VNA)
Hanoi (VNA) - Some of Vietnam's most popular folk tales can now be read in English in a book set to be published in Vietnam.

Australian translator Harry Aveling introduced his work, Legends from Serene Lands, in Hanoi on February 19.

Aveling translated the French-language Legendes des Terres Sereines comprising folk tales selected by scholar Pham Duy Khiem (1908-74) into English.

The book was published by Prestige Books International Publishing in Sydney in 2011. Now The Gioi (World) Publishers have released it in Vietnam.

Aveling came to Vietnam to teach in 2002 and fell in love with the local culture. He wanted to introduce Vietnamese literature to English readers, but he didn't know Vietnamese.

Three years ago, his friend, poet Bao Chan, introduced him to Legendes des Terres Sereines, by scholar Khiem. Khiem, who was born in Hanoi and educated in Paris, was the first Vietnamese to graduate from a French university. He served as Ambassador of Vietnam to France during the 1950s.

His collection, Legendes des Terres Sereines, was first published in Hanoi in 1942 and in an enlarged form in Paris in 1951, then republished in 1989.

Aveling was attracted by the stories and beautiful language. With support from poet Chan, Aveling had a chance to access the original printed version in French. He also contacted Khiem's family and the publishing house in France to acquire the copyright to translate it.

Aveling said a translator stands at the middle of two cultures, and he wants to play the role of a bridge to introduce one culture to another.

While translating the book, he had to translate literally; look at problems of culture, idea and context of the story and rewrite the whole story.

The second task was most difficult, he said.

"There are big differences between Vietnamese and French culture. So Khiem simplified many things to make it easy to understand for French readers. For example, exhumation is extremely strange to French readers."

"When I approached his translation, I tried to look back at Vietnamese traditional culture to understand exactly what happened in the story," he said.

The translator also wrote many footnotes based on his own knowledge and research to explain more for readers.

Prof. Aveling teaches at two universities in Australia. He has publications on Southeast Asia studies including a poem collection translated from Indonesian to English.

He revealed that the next book he will translate is a novel by Khiem, Nam et Sylvie, a romantic love story between a Vietnamese man and a French woman.

"It took three years to complete the Legendes des Terres Sereines translation, so I think I need from three to five years to translate Nam et Sylvie because it's much more difficult," he said.

The 150-page book comprising 26 stories is sold at 85,000 VND (around 3.8 USD).-VNA