This trend received a boost with the implementation of đổi mới ('Renovation') in 1986, which afforded Vietnamese writers a measure of creative freedom, allowing them to look at life from an individual point of view rather than focusing on the role of society as a whole.
Since that time Vietnamese writers have begun to question established views and to tackle such sensitive issues as the enormous cost of victory in terms of human suffering, the problem of official corruption, the disappointments of the post-war era and the social effects of the change from a subsidised to a market economy, including 'social evils' such as prostitution and drug addiction. Such themes have provided the raw material for some of the most exciting contemporary literature emanating from modern Việt Nam, though to date only a handful of the works which tackle them have been translated into other languages.
A small group of contemporary Vietnamese prose writers has already achieved considerable success internationally. This group includes Nguyễn Huy Thiệp (b 1950), author of several important short stories including Tướng về hưu ('The Retired General'), Những ngọn gió Hua Tát ('The Winds of Hua Tát') and Con gái thủy thần ('Daughter of the Sea Gods'); novelist and short story writer Phạm Thị Hoài (b 1960), now resident in Germany, whose best-known works include the novels Thiên sứ ('The Crystal Messenger') and Marie Sến; Dương Thu Hương (b 1947), who attracted wide international attention for her novels Bên kia bờ ảo vọng ('Beyond Illusions'), Những thiên đường mù ('Paradise of the Blind'), Tiểu thuyết vô đề ('Novel Without a Name') and Hồi quang của mùa xuân ('Memories of a Pure Spring'); Hồ Anh Thái (b 1960), author of the acclaimed novels Trong sương hồng hiện ra ('Beyond the Red Mist') and Người đàn bà trên đảo ('The Women on the Island'); and Bảo Ninh (b 1952), whose complex, dream-like work Thân phận của tình yêu ('Destiny of Love', 1987, republished in 1991 as Nỗi buồn chiến tranh or 'The Sorrow of War') transformed writing about human conflict.
However, a much larger body of work by talented contemporary Vietnamese writers has yet to be made available to a wider international audience. Foremost amongst the older generation of prose writers referred to earlier whose work still attracts a large readership are Ngô Ngọc Bội, writer of short stories and author of the novels Ao làng ('Village Pond'), Ác mộng ('Nightmare'), Gió đưa cành trúc ('The Wind Carries the Bamboo Branch') and Mênh mang cổng trời ('Infinite Gate of Heaven'); the late Nguyễn Minh Châu, whose works include the novels Những người đi từ trong rừng ra ('Coming Out of the Forest'), Mảnh đất tình yêu ('Land of Love') and Cỏ lau ('Reeds') plus numerous short stories; and short story writer Nguyễn Khải, whose best works were published in a collection entitled Truyện ngắn Nguyễn Khải.
Other important contemporary Vietnamese prose writers include the afore-mentioned Ma Văn Kháng (b 1936), whose works include the short story collection Truyện ngắn Ma Văn Kháng and the award-winning novel Mùa lá rụng trong vườn ('Season of Falling Leaves'); short story writer and novelist Nguyễn Mạnh Tuấn (b 1947), whose best-known works include Cù lao tràm ('Melaleuca Tree Island') and Đứng trước biển ('Standing Before the Sea'); Lê Lựu (b 1942), short story writer and author of the novels Thời xa vắng ('A Time Far Past') and Sóng ở đáy sông ('Waves on the River Bed'); short story writer and novelist Dương Hương (b 1949), whose works include Bến không chồng ('Haven for Single Women') and Trần gian người đời ('This World of People'); and Tạ Duy Anh (b 1959), author of numerous short stories and novels including Lão khổ ('The Miserable Old Man') and Luân hồi ('Karma').
The contribution of women writers to the development of the short story as a distinctive Vietnamese literary medium has been especially noteworthy; in addition to the afore-mentioned Phạm Thị Hoài, leading contemporary female short story writers include Dạ Ngân (Lê Hồng Nga, b 1952), playwright and theatre director Nguyễn Thị Minh Ngọc (b 1953), Lý Lan (b 1957), Võ Thị Xuân Hà (b 1959), Phạm Thị Minh Thư (b 1956), Y Ban (Phạm Thị Xuân Ban, b 1961), Nguyễn Thị Thu Huệ (b 1966), Phan Thị Vàng Anh (b 1968) and Trần Thanh Hà (b 1971). However, perhaps the best known female short story writers currently working in Việt Nam are Lê Minh Khuê (b 1949), whose works have been published in the award-winning anthology Truyện ngắn Lê Minh Khuê, and Võ Thị Hảo (b 1956), author of the highly popular short stories Biển cứu rỗi ('Sea of Saving') and Người sống sót rừng cười ('Survivor of the Laughing Forest') and the collected works Truyện ngắn chọn lọc Võ Thị Hảo: Một trăm cái dại của đàn ông ('Selected Short Stories of Võ Thị Hảo: One Hundred Stupidities of Men').
Leading Vietnamese poets of the past 25 years such as Phạm Tiến Duật, Nguyễn Duy, Hoàng Nhuận Cầm, Bằng Việt, Hữu Thỉnh, Phạm Ngọc Cảnh, Anh Ngọc and Nguyễn Đức Mậu continue to play an important role in today's literary scene. Other important contemporary poets include Việt Nam Writers’ Association Awards winners Quần Phương (Ngọc Vũ, b 1940), Thanh Thảo (Hồ Thành Công, b 1946) and Nguyễn Quang Thiều (b 1957); and Văn nghệ (Literary Arts) Newspaper Awards winners Hoàng Trần Cương (b 1948), Văn Lê (Lê Chí Thụy, b 1949), Trần Mạnh Hảo (b 1949) and Trần Đăng Khoa (b 1958).
During the past 25 years women poets have also truly come into their own. One of Việt Nam's best-known modern female poets, Xuân Quỳnh (Nguyễn Thị Xuân Quỳnh, 1942-1988), was tragically killed in 1988 in a car accident along with her playwright husband Lưu Quang Vũ. Amongst the most exciting contemporary women poets are Phan Thị Thanh Nhàn (b 1943), Thảo Phương (Nguyễn Mai Hương, b 1949), Phạm Thị Ngọc Liên (b 1952), Giáng Vân (b 1958), Thanh Nguyên (b 1962), Phan Huyền Thư (b 1972), Ngân Hoa (b 1973) and Ly Hoàng Ly (b 1975), Văn nghệ (Literary Arts) Newspaper Awards winners Nguyễn Thị Hồng Ngát (b 1950) and Nguyễn Khánh Chi (b 1965) and Việt Nam Writers Association Awards winners Ý Nhi (Hoàng Thị Ý Nhi, b 1944), Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ (b 1949), Lê Thị Mây (Phạm Tuyết Hoa, b 1949) and Lê Thị Kim (b 1950). The Women's Publishing House recently published an excellent collection of poems by 150 women poets, around half of whom were born since the end of the American War.
At the turn of the new millennium a literary group known as Vòng tròn Sáu mặt (Six Faced Circle) emerged in the southern capital of Hồ Chí Minh City, attracting recognition from leading Vietnamese intellectuals. In 2001 four young writers from this group - Lý Đợi (1978), Bùi Chát (1979), Khúc Duy (1976) and Nguyễn Quán (1977) - formed the Mở Miệng (‘Open Mouth’) underground poetry movement. In recent years this group has held regular poetry readings and its work has become increasingly linked with contemporary developments in performance art.
Over the past quarter century the Việt Nam Writers’ Association, the Hà Nội Writers’ Association, the Hồ Chí Minh City Writers’ Association and several other literary organisations have continued to promote the development of creative writing through their annual awards for the best prose, poetry, theory and criticism and translated works. There has also been corresponding development in the field of literary criticism and literary research. Mention should also be made of the Nguyễn Du School of Writing, Hà Nội, modelled on the Pushkin Institute in Moscow, which was established in 1981 by the Hà Nội University of Culture with the aim of training writers in the two key areas of prose and poetry.