Ngo Vu Bich Diem And Being The Old Flame

Thursday, March 18, 2010

This one's for my Paris By Night crowd - and you know who you are:

For five decades, Diem Xua (Old Flame), has touched millions of hearts and is arguably the most popular work of the late composer Trinh Cong Son.

And for five decades, millions of fans have wondered who Diem was. Did she exist? What did she look like?

"I am Diem."

Simply, without any fuss, a Vietnamese-American sociologist solved the mystery in Hue last week.

Ngo Vu Bich Diem's "coming out" event was a special reunion of old friends, teachers and students organised by another member of the Vietnamese diaspora, Thai Kim Lan, a Hue native who now teaches philosophy in Germany.

"I'm a northern girl. I followed my father, a French language teacher, to live in Hue in 1952. My family lived in a house on Phan Chu Trinh Street near Son's house. I first met Son when he came to my house with his friend, artist Dinh Cuong," said Diem.

She said she was too young at that time to know about Son's feelings.

"Son composed and presented me some of his songs. I love Diem Xua. I think Son wrote the song to highlight the beauty of Hue, its people, its music and poetry," she said.

Son probably had fallen in love with Diem, but did not declare it. He has written that every evening he'd wait to see Diem walk slowly past the window of his house.
Read it in full here.