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July 17, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

PARADISE OF THE BLIND by Duong Thu Huong translated from the Vietnamese by Phan Huy Duong & Nina McPherson (Penguin: $9.95; 270 pp.). The first novel by a Vietnamese women writer, "Paradise" depicts the human price of war and ideological excess. As she grows up, Hang, the narrator, watches her mother and aunt cope with the exigencies of life under a Marxist dictatorship. Hang's mother sacrifices her own happiness for her feckless brother, a minor Party functionary, as corrupt as any petty bureaucrat in a previous regime. Vilified during an ill-conceived land-reform campaign, Hang's aunt labors to restore her former position, then flaunts her success before the neighbors who betrayed her. Banned in Vietnam, Duong's grim portrait of the dehumanization of her country caused her to be expelled from the Communist Party and imprisoned for seven months.

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