Unlike other ‘healthy’ love stories, ‘truyen ngon tinh’ are described by critics as ‘having unconventional plots’, ‘trite and hollow style’ and sometimes ‘thought deviations’ which may distort Vietnamese lifestyle, thus badly affecting Vietnamese habits and customs.
In fact, the watchdog agency imposed the ban in April 2015, saying the books ‘had trite content, unhelpful, and were even rude and offensive’. The watchdog agency said Vietnam only encourages works with healthy content that fit fine traditional customs and habits.
However, the ban has been ignored by publishing houses, which continue to register to publish this kind of book.
The ban has been ignored by publishing houses, which continue to register to publish this kind of book.
Nguyen Phuong Lien, a journalist, believes that truyen ngon tinh will harm readers. “Truyen ngon tinh, which are mostly in two forms – about same-sex love and sex stories – have unhealthy content which will poison youth who don’t have real-life experience,” she wrote.
Many writers, educators and psychologists have also raised concerns about the harm the books may have to young people, especially teenagers.
However, despite the ban and warnings, the books still flood bookstores on ‘book streets’ in Hanoi such as Nguyen Xi and Dinh Le. Meanwhile, online forums where love stories are published still attract hundreds of thousands of readers.
An analyst observed that Vietnamese are not only attracted by love stories, but also by romantic films adapted from the stories. The romantic films usually top the list of favorite films on online film stores, attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers.
Trang Linh, 1998, a love story fan, from Hai Phong City, said she was against the ban.
“I don’t think love stories encourage a debauched life. There are ‘hot bed scenes’, but they are reasonable,” she said. “One must not say they are vulgar.”
Linh believes that instead of prohibiting love stories, it would be better for the watchdog agency to strengthen censoring and classify books for different groups of readers.
“There are films for people aged under and above 18. And there should be books for different groups of readers,” she said.
Hoang Hoa Thuy, an office worker, said that loves stories have a humanitarian nature and must not be boycotted.
“If the watchdog agency prohibits Chinese-style love stories, it should also prohibit famous publications such as ‘Norwegian Wood’ or ‘Beloved Oxford’,” she said.