This epic novel presents a sweeping portrait of war and peace in northern Vietnam from the defeat of the French to the mid-1980s. The story follows the odyssey of Giang Minh Sai, the son of a Confucian scholar in the rural Red River delta, from his early childhood through his decorated service during the American War and his later efforts to adapt to the postwar world of urban Ha Noi. Through two failed marriages, Giang Minh Sai struggles to come to terms with his responsibilities, his past, and his future. The novel's ending leaves its hero and Vietnamese socialism at a problematic and painful crossroads.
In its intricate sketching of complicated alliances, personal debts, and human interactions, A Time Far Past explores the complex layering of family and village history and Party and feudal authority. It also paints a vivid picture of the vast dislocations in Vietnamese culture caused by the political and military turmoil of the Indochina wars.
A Time Far Past was enormously popular in Vietnam, where it was first published in 1986, selling more than 120,000 copies and winning that country's national prize for fiction.