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Exile: Rupture and Continuity in Jean Vanmai’s Chân Dang and Fils de Chân Dang

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on the novels of the New Caledonian-born writer Jean Vanmai, Chân Dang (1980) and Fils de Chân Dang (1983), which describe the working conditions and exilic existence of the little known Chân Dang, the voluntary workers from Tonkin (North Vietnam) who moved to New Caledonia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Descended from a Chân Dang family, Vanmai wishes to preserve the memory of the Chân Dang’s past. In writing their story, Vanmai sees himself as the guardian of the Chân Dang’s collective memory, a keeper and defender of their common past. The chapter argues that in his depictions of the Chân Dang, Vanmai breaks the silence surrounding colonial exile and exploitation and provides a full account of the Chân Dang’s exile that can be integrated into the contemporary history of Vietnamese migration. Moreover, Vanmai also stresses the need to fulfil one’s filial duty among the young Vietnamese generations. With this symbolic filial act, Vanmai pays homage to his Vietnamese ancestors and earns himself an honourable title, that of a true dutiful “son of Chân Dang.”



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