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Thuận

Elevator in Sai Gon

Elevator in Sai Gon

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Title

From the acclaimed author of Chinatown comes a personal and political journey through Hanoi, Sài Gòn, Paris, Pyongyang, and Seoul.

A Vietnamese woman living in Paris travels back to Sài Gòn for her estranged mother’s funeral. Her brother had recently built a new house there 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 mother’s past and begins to investigate and track a mysterious figure who emerges from her notebook named Paul Polotski. Like an amateur sleuth, she trails Polotski through the streets of Paris as he goes about his usual routines; meanwhile, she zigzags 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 Sài Gòn is part detective story, part historical romance, part postcolonial ghost story, and a biting satire of life in a communist state.

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Bio

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

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