Culture Vulture ( 08-01-2014)

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Seventeen-year-old Russian Mikhail Samarsky, who began writing when he was 12 and won the hearts of young people around the world, arrived in Viet Nam to speak to the visually impaired. His books, which have been translated into Vietnamese and other languages, include the novel A Rainbow for a Friend. He also has founded a charity organisation to support visually impaired people.
Can you share your experiences during your first trip to Viet Nam?

I cannot find a friendlier feeling that here, though I have visited several countries. There were hundreds of people waiting for me in the airport upon my arrival. I feel sad when thinking of the day I have to leave this country. I don’t know if I can leave this city on January 4 when all of my exchange activities in HCM City wrap up.

How do you feel seeing your book read by Vietnamese?

I feel moved to see my that my book was translated into Vietnamese and welcomed by several people here, a country and language very far from my own. Vietnamese is the first Eastern language in which my books have been translated. Though we have very different cultures, we have the same emotions after reading my books. My book will also be translated into Japanese.

While most of your peers enjoy their childhood, why did you decide to spend time composing literature?

I am normal like other teenagers. Nothing special. I could not forget that summer, when my parents were absent and I had to stay home alone. I felt sad and had nothing to do. I decided to write a short story myself, just for a lark. Later I thought I should make a big manuscript.

With all of my courage, I sent it to a publishing house without informing my parents about the project. I sent my works there without any hope. After sending the manuscript I felt regret, because I thought no one would read stories written by a kid like me.

Amazingly, just a few days after that, the publishing house said that they had agreed to print my first book. I was so happy, jumping up to the ceiling. You see at that time I was still a kid.

You are a writer now. Why did you choose to study political science and international relations at Moscow State University?

I love writing. Whatever my job in the future will be, I also write. I decided that I would never give up writing. I decided to study political science because it is a very necessary field. With it, I will have many more conditions to help everyone, especially the disadvantaged.

I promised myself to help people who are visually impaired. If I participate in politics, I will have better conditions to realise my intention. For the purpose of my international relations study, I think this field will be very important in the future. My trip to Viet Nam to perform charitable activities is also part of international relations.

You love literature. So which Russian writer do you like the most?

It’s unfortunate for me when Russia has many great writers and literature talents. So it’s hard for me to say who is my most favourite author. I can read one author, and feel that I like him the most, but later when I read another book, I will also like that writer.

The Vietnamese visually impaired reader, who listen to audiobooks of your novels, wonder how you can understand the feelings of blind people so well in your books?

I chose a guide dog for the blind as a speaker in my stories. I thought it would be cute. As a dog, everyone can accept what it says and forgive easily. I covered my eyes for three days to know more about the feeling and the world of the blind.

Everyone expresses their surprise that a 12 year-old boy, who has good eyesight, knows so much about blind people and their world. I visited dog training school, talking with trainers there and playing with the dogs. I also looked up information on the internet.

I finished A Rainbow for a Friend in only three months during my summer break.

Now many young people love to write. Do you have any advice for them?

My advice for Vietnamese youth is also my own experience. If you want to write well, read as much as possible. — VNS

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