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Courtesy the publisher.
y separately published work icon The Boat selected work   short story  
Issue Details: First known date: 2008... 2008 The Boat
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'In the magnificent opening story, "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice," a young writer is urged by his friends to mine his father's experiences in Vietnam - and what seems at first a satire on turning one's life into literary commerce becomes a transcendent exploration of homeland, and the ties between father and son. "Cartagena" provides a visceral glimpse of life in Colombia as it enters the mind of a fourteen-year-old hit man facing the ultimate test. In "Meeting Elise" an ageing New York painter mourns his body's decline as he prepares to meet his daughter on the eve of her Carnegie Hall debut. And with graceful symmetry, the final, title story returns to Vietnam, to a fishing trawler crowded with refugees where a young woman's bond with a mother and her small son forces both women to a shattering decision.' (From the author's website.)



Reading Australia

Reading Australia

This work has Reading Australia teaching resources.

Unit Suitable For

AC: Years 10–12 (NSW Stages 5–6). However, with some adaptation it could also be used for highly proficient Year 9 students seeking extension.


a writer's obligation to memory, acceptance, ageing, asylum seekers, coming of age, cultural awareness, dealing with the past, ethnicity, family, fate, friendship, historical events, hope, identity, loyalty, mortality, reconciliation, refugees, resilience, sacrifice

General Capabilities

Critical and creative thinking, Intercultural understanding, Literacy

Cross-curriculum Priorities

Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia


  • Dedication: To: Ta Thi Xuan Le, my mother, Le Huu Phuc, my father and Truong and Victor, my brothers.
  • Epigraph: Importunate along the dark/ Horizon of immediacies/ The flares of desperation rise. W. H. Auden.
  • Epigraph: How strange that when the summons came I always felt good. Frank Conroy.
  • Included in the New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books List for 2008.
  • Noted briefly in the 'Paperback Row' column, New York Times Book Review, 27 September 2009.
  • In 2011, first-year students at Melbourne University were able to purchase a subsidised copy of The Boat as part of the university's summer reading project. The project aimed to engage students in university life.

Affiliation Notes

  • This work is affiliated with the AustLit subset Asian-Australian Children's Literature and Publishing because it has been recommended as a resource for Asia Literacy for secondary students by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria.


* Contents derived from the Camberwell, Camberwell - Kew area, Melbourne - Inner South, Melbourne, Victoria,:Hamish Hamilton , 2008 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice, Nam Le , single work short story

'A young Vietnamese-Australian named Nam, in his final year at the famed Iowa Writers' Workshop, is trying to find his voice on the page. When his father, a man with a painful past, comes to visit, Nam's writing and sense of self are both deeply changed.

'Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice is a deeply moving story of identity, family and the wellsprings of creativity, from Nam Le's multi-award-winning collection The Boat.' (From the publisher's website, 2012 Penguin publication.)

(p. 1-30)
Cartagena, Nam Le , single work short story (p. 31-75)
Meeting Elise, Nam Le , Nam Le , single work short story (p. 76-105)
Halflead Bay, Nam Le , single work short story (p. 106-185)
Hiroshima, Nam Le , single work short story

A young girl in war-time Hiroshima tries to repress her loneliness and longing for her family by clinging to nationalist propaganda.

(p. 186-203)
Tehran Calling, Nam Le , single work short story (p. 204-263)
The Boat, Nam Le , single work short story (p. 264-313)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • Camberwell, Camberwell - Kew area, Melbourne - Inner South, Melbourne, Victoria,: Hamish Hamilton , 2008 .
      image of person or book cover 7206324726176176512.jpg
      This image has been sourced from author's website
      Extent: 315p.
      ISBN: 9780241015414 (pbk.)
    • New York (City), New York (State),
      United States of America (USA),
      Knopf ,
      2008 .
      Extent: 272p.
      Edition info: 1st ed.
      ISBN: 9780307268082, 9780307388193
    • c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      Western Europe, Europe,
      Canongate ,
      2009 .
      Extent: 288pp.p.
      • Also ebook.
      ISBN: 9781847671615
    • c
      United States of America (USA),
      Vintage ,
      2009 .
      Extent: 288pp.p.
      ISBN: 9780307388193
Alternative title: Im Boot: Erzählungen
Language: German

Works about this Work

Literature, Literary Ethics, and the Global Contexts of Australian Literature : Teaching Nam Le’s The Boat Brigitta Olubas , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Teaching Australian and New Zealand Literature 2016; (p. 190-198)

‘This essay takes up the question of literary ethics as a mode of pedagogy and considers the way the contexts of writing and reading bear on the larger and historical and conceptual resonances of literary texts. Nam Le's collection of short stories, The Boat (2008), is an exemplary Australian text that speaks to its global and Asian-Pacific contexts, prompting students to engage with their contemporary world first through specific locations and then through the paradigm of what we call "the literary" or "literature," by which I mean an appreciation of the ways that literature and literary reading persist today despite the extraordinary shifts that we have witnessed in media and cultural literacy. I focus on the opening story of the collection, "Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice," because it explicitly addresses the question of literary ethics - that is, what writing and reading mean in the early twenty-first century—first through the protagonist,  a young Vietnamese Australian writer who shares his name with the author, and second through his experience of hearing and reworking a first-person story of trauma told to him by his father. That "Love and Honour" is rich with intertextual associations—notably with the writing of James Joyce, William Faulkner, and Kurt Vonnegut — gives students the opportunity to connect and reconnect with well-known works and to extend their sense of the terrain of the literary.’ (Introduction)

“Trafficking in Words” : On the Politics of Writing, Cross-Border Mobility, and Nam Le’s The Boat Marita Jane Bullock , 2015 single work criticism
— Appears in: Antipodes , December vol. 29 no. 2 2015; (p. 461-477)
Worlds Apart : Nam Le’s The Boat and Ali Alizadeh’s Transactions Lachlan Brown , 2015 single work criticism
— Appears in: Transnational Literature , May vol. 7 no. 2 2015;

'Australian short fiction collections which are self-consciously and explicitly transnational have risen to prominence during the past decade. Nam Le’s celebrated collection The Boat (2008) has been followed by Ali Alizadeh’s Transactions (2013), Maxine Beneba-Clarke’s Foreign Soil (2014) and Ceridwen Dovey’s Only the Animals (2014). All these books are ambitious, grandtour collections, organising themselves in ways that emphasise disparate locations around the globe. They are marked by precocious writing styles, a predilection for distinct and distinctive voices, rapid or jolting movements between specific yet diverse situations, a thematisation of

‘the global’, as well as holistic or in some cases totalising structures. The collections by Le, Alizadeh and Beneba-Clarke are accompanied by metafictive frames which foreground the idea of writing as a creative and urgent act in a globalised world. Such transnational short fiction may find immediate precursors in writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, whose Unaccommodated Earth

explores familial migrations and double migrations and Daniel Alarcon whose War by Candlelight depicts intense and specific locations from Lima to New York.' (Author's introduction)

26 Aussie Books You Must Read Blanche Clark , 2015 single work column
— Appears in: The Courier-Mail , 24 January 2015; (p. 18-19)
'With Australia Day upons us...26 great Australian Books that have helped shape and define our nation...'
‘. . . An Asian Dummy with an Aussie Voice’ : Ventriloquism and Authenticity in Nam Le’s The Boat and Tim Winton’s The Turning Lachlan Brown , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , vol. 14 no. 3 2014;

'This paper presents a number of key similarities between Nam Le’s story ‘Halflead Bay’ in The Boat and Tim Winton’s 2004 collection of short stories The Turning. Indeed the scale and type of these similarities indicates more than a subconscious attempt at creating what could be considered a quintessentially regional Australian voice. There seems to be mimicry, counterfeit or the call of the lyrebird at play in this story. Picking up Ken Gelder’s ideas of citation and ventriloquism from his 2010 discussion of proximate reading, alongside Connor's discussion of ventriloquism in Dumdstruck, this paper considers the implications of Le’s attempts to ‘out-Winton’ Winton in ‘Halflead Bay.’ Of particular relevance here is Le’s own exploration of ventriloquism and accents in his Wheeler Centre presentation ‘Voices from Elsewhere’, as well the attention he pays to accents, location and problematic authenticity in The Boat’s opening story.' (Publication abstract)

Editor's Picks Matthia Dempsey , 2008 single work review
— Appears in: Bookseller + Publisher Magazine , April/May vol. 87 no. 8 2008; (p. 32)

— Review of The Boat Nam Le , 2008 selected work short story
A World of Stories from a Son of Vietnam Michiko Kakutani , 2008 single work review
— Appears in: The New York Times , 13 May 2008; (p. 1)

— Review of The Boat Nam Le , 2008 selected work short story

Kakutani asserts that the opening story, 'like many in The Boat, catches people in moments of extremis, confronted by death or loss or terror (or all three) and forced to grapple at the most fundamental level with who they are and what they want or believe. Whether it’s the prospect of dying at sea or being shot by a drug kingpin or losing family members in a war, Nam Le’s people are individuals trapped in the crosshairs of fate, forced to choose whether they will react like deer caught in the headlights, or whether they will find a way to confront or disarm the situation.'

Outside Ethnicity Hari Kunzru , 2008 single work review
— Appears in: The New York Times Book Review , 8 June vol. 113 no. 23 2008; (p. 8)

— Review of The Boat Nam Le , 2008 selected work short story

Kunzru suggests in this review that 'The Boat is transparently a product of the increasingly formalized milieu in which American writers train — a well-wrought collection that, in its acute self-consciousness, trails a telltale whiff of 'the industry' that is its initial concern, of the 'heap of fellowship and job applications' the fictional Le needs 'to draft and submit' when he’s interrupted by his father. 'Ethnic lit' is unhappily what emerges when identity politics head into the marketing meeting [...]. Le is starting to grapple with the subtleties of authenticity, but one comes away feeling that it’s not really his subject, that he has a future as a very different kind of writer.'

First-Time Narrative a Rare Voice Tim Johnston , 2008 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 7-8 June 2008; (p. 14-15)

— Review of The Boat Nam Le , 2008 selected work short story
No Need for Lesbian Vampires James Ley , 2008 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 14 June 2008; (p. 31)

— Review of The Boat Nam Le , 2008 selected work short story
Stories to Explore Somone Else's Skin Patrick Cohen , 2008 single work column
— Appears in: The New York Times , 14 May 2008; (p. 1)
When the Boat Comes In Michael Williams , 2008 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 30 May 2008; (p. 24-25) The Sydney Morning Herald , 21-22 June 2008; (p. 28-29)
Short and Sweet Michael Harry , 2008 single work column
— Appears in: The Advertiser , 26 July 2008; (p. 15)
On Nam Le Peter Craven , 2008 single work criticism
— Appears in: Heat , no. 17 (New Series) 2008; (p. 63-77)
Asian Voices Add to the Great Chorus James Massola , 2008 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Canberra Times , 6 September 2008; (p. 4-5)
Last amended 5 Dec 2017 01:15:12
  • Victoria,
  • c
    South America, Americas,
  • New York (City), New York (State),
    United States of America (USA),
  • Hiroshima, Honshu,
    East Asia, South and East Asia, Asia,
  • Iowa,
    United States of America (USA),
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