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The Boat : 1st Edition - Nam Le

The Boat

1st Edition

By: Nam Le

Paperback Published: 2nd March 2009
ISBN: 9780143009610
Number Of Pages: 336
For Ages: 14 - 15 years old

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This book is featured in our Refugees and Displaced People page, a collection of the best books to understand the courage and plight of forced migration, including books for children of stories and issues

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Product Description

'The Boat raises the bar for Australian writing.'

'Nam Le is . . . a disturber of the peace.

'Consider the subjects of his stories: a child assassin in Colombia ('Cartagena'), an ageing New York artist desperate for a reconciliation with his daughter ('Meeting Elise'), a boy's coming of age in a rough Victorian fishing town ('Halflead Bay'), before the first atomic bomb falls in Japan ('Hiroshima'), The suffocations of theocracy in Iran ('Tehran Calling'). This astonishing range is topped and tailed by accounts of the uneasy reunion of a young Vietnamese writer in America with his ex-soldier father, and by the title story – the escape of a group of exhausted refugees from the Vietcong in a wallowing boat.


- Dylan Thomas Prize (UK) 2009 - Winner Fiction
- Commonwealth Writers' Prize Regional 2009 - Long-listed Best First Book
- SMH Young Novelist 2009 - Winner
- NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2009 - Winner Book of the Year
- NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2009 - Winner New Writing
- Australian Book Industry Awards 2009 - Short-listed Book of the Year
- Australian Book Industry Awards 2009 - Short-listed Literary Fiction
- Australian Book Industry Awards 2009 - Winner Newcomer of the Year
- Qld Premier's Literary Award 2009 - Winner Australian Short Story Collection - Arts Queensland
- Qld Premier's Literary Award 2009 - Short-listed Fiction
- Victorian Premier's Literary Award 2009 - Short-listed Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction
- Prime Minister's Literary Award 2009 - WINNER

About The Author

Nam Le's first book, The Boat, received the Australian Prime Minister's Literary Award, the Melbourne Prize (Best Writing Award), the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award, among other honours. It was selected as a New York Times Notable Book and Editor's Choice, the best debut of 2008 by the Australian Book Review and New York Magazine, and a book of the year by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Herald Sun, The Monthly, and numerous sources around the world. The Boat has been translated into thirteen languages and its stories widely anthologised. Le is the fiction editor of the Harvard Review.

My father arrived on a rainy morning. I was dreaming about a poem, the dull thluck thluck of a typewriter's keys punching out the letters. It was a good poem - perhaps the best I'd ever written. When I woke up, he was standing outside my bedroom door, smiling ambiguously. He wore black trousers and a wet, wrinkled parachute jacket that looked like it had just been pulled out of a washing machine. Framed by the bedroom doorway, he appeared even smaller, gaunter, than I remembered. Still groggy with dream, I lifted my face toward the alarm clock.

'What time is it?'

'Hello, Son,' he said in Vietnamese. 'I knocked for a long time. Then the door just opened.'

The fields are glass, I thought. Then tum-ti-ti, a dactyl, end line, then the words excuse and alloy in the line after. Come on, I thought.

'It's raining heavily,' he said.

I frowned. The clock read 11:44. 'I thought you weren't coming until this afternoon.' It felt strange, after all this time, to be speaking Vietnamese again. 'They changed my flight in Los Angeles.'

'Why didn't you ring?'

'I tried,' he said equably. 'No answer.'

I twisted over the side of the bed and cracked open the window. The sound of rain filled the room - rain fell on the streets, on the roofs, on the tin shed across the parking lot like the distant detonations of firecrackers. Everything smelled of wet leaves.

'I turn the ringer off when I sleep,' I said. 'Sorry.'

He continued smiling at me, significantly, as if waiting for an announcement.

'I was dreaming.'

He used to wake me, when I was young, by standing over me and smacking my cheeks lightly. I hated it - the wetness, the sourness of his hands.

'Come on,' he said, picking up a large Adidas duffle and a rolled bundle that looked like a sleeping bag. 'A day lived, a sea of knowledge earned.' He had a habit of speaking in Vietnamese proverbs. I had long since learned to ignore it.

I threw on a T-shirt and stretched my neck in front of the lone window. Through the rain, the sky was as grey and striated as graphite. The fields are glass ... Like a shape in smoke, the poem blurred, then dissolved into this new, cold, strange reality: a windblown, rain-strafed parking lot; a dark room almost entirely taken up by my bed; the small body of my father dripping water onto hardwood floors.

I went to him, my legs goose-pimpled underneath my pyjamas. He watched with pleasant indifference as my hand reached for his, shook it, then relieved his other hand of the bags. 'You must be exhausted,' I said.

He had flown from Sydney. Thirty-three hours all up - transiting in Auckland, Los Angeles and Denver - before touching down in Iowa. I hadn't seen him in three years.

'You'll sleep in my room.'

'Very fancy,' he said as he led me through my own apartment. 'You even have a piano.' He gave me an almost rueful smile. 'I knew you'd never really quit.' Something moved behind his face and I found myself back on a heightened stool with my fingers chasing the metronome, ahead and behind, trying to shut out the tutor's repeated sighing, his heavy brass ruler. I realised I was massaging my knuckles. My father patted the futon in my living room. 'I'll sleep here.'

'You'll sleep in my room, Ba.' I watched him warily as he surveyed our surroundings, messy with books, papers, dirty plates, teacups, clothes - I'd intended to tidy up before going to the airport. 'I work in this room anyway, and I work at night.' As he moved into the kitchen, I grabbed the three-quarters-full bottle of Johnnie Walker from the second shelf of my bookcase and stashed it under the desk. I looked around. The desktop was gritty with cigarette ash. I threw some magazines over the roughest spots, then flipped one of them over because its cover bore a picture of Chairman Mao. I quickly gathered up the cigarette packs and sleeping pills and incense burners and dumped them all on a high shelf, behind my Kafka Vintage Classics.

At the kitchen swing door I remembered the photo of Linda beside the printer. Her glamour shot, I called it: hair windswept and eyes squinty, smiling at something out of frame. One of her ex-boyfriends had taken it at Lake MacBride. She looked happy. I snatched it and turned it facedown, covering it with scrap paper.

As I walked into the kitchen I thought, for a moment, that I'd left the fire escape open. I could hear rainwater gushing along gutters, down through the pipes. Then I saw my father at the sink, sleeves rolled up, sponge in hand, washing the month-old crusted mound of dishes. The smell was awful. 'Ba,' I frowned, 'You don't need to do that.'

His hands, hard and leathery, moved deftly in the sink. 'Ba,' I said, halfheartedly.

'I'm almost finished.' He looked up and smiled. 'Have you eaten? Do you want me to make some lunch?'

'Thoi,' I said, suddenly irritated. 'You're exhausted. I'll go out and get us something.'

I went back through the living room into my bedroom, picking up clothes and rubbish along the way.

'You don't have to worry about me,' he called out. 'You just do what you always do.'

ISBN: 9780143009610
ISBN-10: 0143009613
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
For Ages: 14 - 15 years old
For Grades: 10
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 336
Published: 2nd March 2009
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 19.800 x 12.9  x 2.300
Weight (kg): 19.8
Edition Number: 1

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