Humanity, optimism filled “Prison diary”

(VOVworld) – In his revolutionary career, President Ho Chi Minh wrote many historic documents and famous works, including a collection of poems called “Prison diary”. The work is a self-portrait in poems, reflecting the humane and optimistic soul of the profound communist and poet Ho Chi Minh. 

Humanity, optimism filled “Prison diary”  - ảnh 1
Humanity, optimism filled “Prison diary”  - ảnh 2

To mark the 70th anniversary of “Prison diary”, a recent workshop in Hanoi confirmed the artistic value, humanity, and vitality of the poem collection, a high-profile work in Vietnam’s modern poetry. The workshop was organized by the Party Central Committee’s Communication and Education Commission, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the Vietnam Union of Vietnam Arts and Literature Associations. “Prison diary” consists of 133 poems written in Chinese Han script from August 29, 1942, to September 10, 1943. The original edition is a small notebook whose cover is illustrated with 4 verses and a sketch of two hands in chains. Ho Chi Minh was both the author and a character who recorded and retold “stories in jail” in a diary format. “Prison diary” can be seen as an autobiography in verse, in which President Ho placed the revolution and the people in the supreme position. Literary critic Phuong Luu says the work shows the greatness of a great personality, whose earnest desire was “Independence for the nation and freedom for humans”:“It’s noteworthy that the word “freedom” is repeated again and again, demonstrating Ho Chi Minh’s desire for freedom as a human being and a poet. This also matches his thought as a leader. When establishing the State, he named it the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. But this was not enough. Vietnam was one of the rare countries that have added another phrase to its official name: “Independence – Freedom – Happiness”, meaning the nation was independent and the people had to a right to freedom and happiness. This is what we are pursuing now”.

Ho Chi Minh’s “Prison dairy” depicts the revolutionary’s perseverance, resilience and iron will to overcome all hardships with hope and optimism for the future. Despite being in custody and enduring 18 prisons in 13 district of China’s Quangxi province, the author showed dignity and unruffledness as a revolutionary prisoner. To begin the collection, Ho Chi Minh wrote “I am not keen on reciting poems, but what else can I do in jail; All day long I recite poems to find solace; Reciting and waiting for the day I will be released”. Enduring the harsh conditions of Chiang Kai-Shek’s prison, the prisoner was firm in his belief in the rosy future of the revolution. “There is neither wine nor flower in jail; It’s hard to resist tonight’s beauty; A human being watches the moonlight via a window; The moon peeps at the poet through the gap of the window”.

Literary critic Professor Phong Le calls “Prison diary” the most honest and in-depth self-portrait of Ho Chi Minh. He emerged in various postures: a revolutionary who lost freedom, a miserable prisoner, a friend who was sympathetic to all lower-class people and a poetic soul in favor of nature. He was also a human being with extraordinary strong will and a revolutionary optimism amid the most difficult circumstances. Poet Vu Quan Phuong told VOV:“I wrote several studies about him, including articles about his prison escape and how he merged into the circle of prisoners, the bottom-of-society class. “My itchy body is purplish-red as if covered an embroidered silk cloth; Rustling as if playing a guitar. Wearing silk cloth, my prisoner friends are honored guests. Playing music in jail voices friendship”. (Poem Scabies)

“Prison dairy” was translated into Vietnamese in 1960 and since then has been translated into English, Arabic, Portuguese, German, Korean, Japanese, and Spanish. On October 1, 2012, the Prime Minister of Vietnam signed a decision recognizing “Prison diary” as a national treasure.