A life in exile literature: Linda Lê and the English-language literary world

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The late Linda Lê (1963-2022), arguably the most lauded and prolific writer of the Vietnamese Francophone diaspora, is distinctive for her intertextual engagement with global authors. Beyond her documented connection to the Austrian poet and writer, Ingeborg Bachmann, Lê also turns to a cohort of exiled or nomadic English-language writers in her collections of literary essays, Tu écriras sur le bonheur (1999), Le Complexe de Caliban (2005) and Par ailleurs (Exils) (2014). Analysing Lê’s dialogues with these writers reveals two parallel authorial purposes. Firstly, her conversations with the work of prominent writers-in-exile, Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov, provide means to express and substantiate the attitude she takes towards writing in exile: her rejection of both nostalgia and a geographical homeland. Secondly, her engagement with the ambiguous exile of Edward Saïd and Bruce Chatwin’s nomadism offer Lê a roadmap to navigate her supplementary home in literature. This article shows that Lê’s reflections on English-language writers’ biographies and her interpretations of their selected works had a defining effect on the construction of her life in exile literature. An examination of Lê’s scholarly reception in the English-speaking academe concomitantly recalls that her relationship with English Letters is bi-directional.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-34
Number of pages13
JournalL'Esprit Créateur
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023


  • Linda Lê
  • Exile literature
  • English Literature
  • Diaspora literaure
  • Vietnamese Francophone Literature


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