- In the war against France in the early 50s, in the Viet Bac war zone, a newspaper was created to meet soldiers’ love of literature and arts. The newspaper, the Art Life, was printed on rice paper with rustic technique and a limited number of copies. At that time, no one could imagine this simple newspaper would set the foundation for one of the most important literary magazine in the history of revolutionary literature.
Senior Colonel Nguyen Binh Phuong, General Editor of the Military Literature Magazine
In January 1957, after a period of thorough preparation under the direct guidance of General Nguyen Chi Thanh, the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine, which was formerly known as the Art Life, officially released publicly to readers nationwide. Since then, the magazine has become a mainstream literary forum inside and outside the military. The headquarter of the magazine, the ancient villa in Ly Nam De Street with its nickname: House no. 4, also became a familiar address for writers.
The first Head of the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine was writer Van Phac. The editorial secretary was Thanh Tinh. Writer Tu Bich Hoang was in charge of the prose section and the poetry section was undertaken by Vu Cao.
With the principles and tasks of publishing literary critic works and studies, contributing to fostering soldiers’ mind and soul in order to build new men in the military, at the same time, detecting and supporting young literary talents, right from its first issues, the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine has received great attention from readers. Though the works which were published in the period from 1957 to 1964 attached importance to the war against French, soldiers’ image in peace and in struggling for the reunification of the country was specially focused.
The resistance against the US entered a tough period, many battlefields were opened and the writers of the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine did not mind tough and fierce conditions, with backpacks, rubber sandals, and Truong Son sticks infiltrating battlefield. In the first batch, Nguyen Ngoc and Nguyen Ngoc Tan went to the Region 5, Truc Ha to the Region 6, after that Nguyen Trong Oanh went to the Highland-B3 then toward the South-B2. Following them, a series of trips to penetrate battlefield was carried out by their colleagues. In order to keep secret, the writers’ names must be concealed. Therefore, pseudonyms, including Nguyen Trung Thanh, Nguyen Thi, Thu Bon, Nam Ha, Nguyen Thanh Van, Tran Mai Nam, Ngo Vu Bang, Le Hoai Dang, Vu Ngan Chi, etc. were born. Not all the writers going into battle returned to the House no. 4. Nguyen Ngoc Tan - Nguyen Thi laid down his life at the South during the Tet Offensive in 1968. He fell down in front of the gate of Saigon with his backpack storing many unfinished manuscripts. These writers - soldiers of the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine were ready to devote their lives to the cause of liberating and reuniting the country. Their commitment was not in vain. From war, articles and works with fresh reality were born, bringing about huge encouragement for those who directly engaged in combat. Outstanding works included Duong chung ta di (The road we go) by Nguyen Ngoc, Buc thu lang Muc (Letter from Muc village) by Nguyen Chi Trung, Bai ca chim Chrao (Chrao birds song) by Thu Bon, Nguoi me cam sung (A mother who takes up arms) by Nguyen Thi, Ho song va chien dau (They live and fight) by Nguyen Khai, Dai dat hep (A narrow land strip) by Huu Mai, Cuoc chien dau tren mat duong (the struggle on the road) by Xuan Thieu and so on. Those pseudonyms and works became the solid foundation for the formation of literature on the subject of war and revolution as well as the socialist realist literature.
The Van nghe Quan doi Magazine has changed its paper size for several times. The changes were to fit into the transportation into battlefield and to be convenient for soldiers to carry. It was the most accurate evidence of the "friendship" between the soldiers - mighty warriors of the Ho Chi Minh era with a literary magazine, the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine. In terms of propaganda, it can be said that the magazine has brilliantly fulfilled its tasks by timely mobilizing soldiers in the toughest moment when the human heart flutters because of the choice between life and courage. Furthermore, the magazine has built up and lifted off the soldiers’ soul in wartime, instilled in them the love of people, the love of the motherland, the kindness and the courage to wait for tomorrow. That value is not measurable, but can be seen through the optimism and composure of the soldiers at war and when gaining the final victory.
After 1975, the country was reunified, those writers going into battle, came back and gathered at the House no. 4, brimming with reality. Countless intends of a heroic generation of witers with the desire to write great works worth the historical greatness of the nation, started to form. Unfortunately, the country once again suffered from aggression and invasion, and the soldiers again went to war. The writers - soldiers of the House no. 4 were again side by side with their comrades at the southwest and the northern borders. The peace-loving soldiers of the Ho Chi Minh era again stayed at fighting posts and read the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine.
If you are looking for the most realistic, the most vivid portrait of the Vietnamese soldier, you can not not find it anywhere but in the pages of the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine. From the rustic but romantic image of the members of the National Defence Troops to the stately and imposing image of the Southern Liberation Army’s soldiers and the North’s socialist soldiers, all have marched through the works published in the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine. In other words, the history of Van nghe Quan doi Magazine is the history of the Viet Nam People’s Army soldiers’ spirit. That history has been recorded and portrayed by a team of talented writers. They are Nguyen Khai, Huu Mai, Tu Bich Hoang, Ho Phuong, Huy Toan, Mai Van Hien, Nguyen Ngoc, Nguyen Trong Oanh, Nguyen Thi, Nguyen Minh Chau, Thu Bon, Xuan Sach, Xuan Thieu, Nam Ha, Nhi Ca, Huu Thinh, Pham Ngoc Canh, Nguyen Duc Mau, Anh Ngoc, Hong Dieu, Chu Lai, Le Luu, Nguyen Tri Huan, Khuat Quang Thuy, Tran Dang Khoa ... and other renowned authors.
The country is entering a new stage of aggressively changing to integrate with the world’s development, literature and arts also join the movement. International literary trends and tendencies have significant impacts on authors’ conception and perception creating a diverse but complex situation. The Van nghe Quan doi Magazine is also facing new opportunities and challenges, requiring necessary bravery and alertness. The point of view of the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine is to choose good works of standard and humanity, but openly accept trends of genuine exploration. That view has been proven by the reality to be completely correct. Up to now, although the magazine has been consistently adhering with its purposes, principles and tasks, it has been flexible enough to keep up with the diverse development of the era. The magazine has been conducting quintessential adaptations both in form and content accordingly. In addition to the launch of its online edition with millions of views and its coming English online version, the magazine maintains its regular semimonthly print edition of 30 thousand copies. The current writers of the magazine are young in age and seniority, having high education levels and skills in journalism, editing skills and most importantly, they are literary talents of the military.
Through 60 years of growth and development, with frequent, close and timely attention and direction paid by the Ministry of Defense and particularly the General Political Department, the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine has always fullfiled its tasks, becoming the pride of the military’s literature and arts. Dozens of the magazine’s writers have received Ho Chi Minh Awards, the State Awards, the Ministry of Defense’s Awards and other international awards such as the Lotus Awards by the Asian - African Writers’ Association, the ASEAN Awards and the Mekong River Awards. Some were presented the Hero title, and many streets, roads and schools were named after them. Especially, in 2007, the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine was conferred the title “the Hero of the People’s Armed Forces” during the resistance war against the US. This is a worthy reward for the dedication of generations of military writers. On the occasion of the 60th aniversary of its first publication, the Party and the State have decided to present the magazine with the Third Class Fatherland Defense Order. This prestigious award is the recognition and encouragement for the magazine’s contribution to the development of literature in the new era.
Today, we are gathering here to review the development path of the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine in the past 60 years. This is also an opportunity for officers, soldiers, staffs, editors and writers who are working in the magazine to express their respect and gratitude for the elder generations who have created and established the magazine’s prestige. On this occasion, the magazine also expresses its sincere and profound gratitude toward writers, poets, artists and collaborators who have resered their special and intimate feelings and sentiments for the magazine.
Promoting the tradition built by previous generations, those who are working at the Van nghe Quan doi Magazine are aware of the need to further enhance the quality and richness of the magazine to preserve and make its trademark more sustainable, meeting the trust of readers inside and outside the military. That is the obligation and the responsibility, as well as the permanent thought of each member of the House no.4.
NGUYEN BINH PHUONG
(Translated by VU HUNG)