So when we first moved to Hanoi, we moved into a house in a small alleyway next to Lenin Park which also contained a furniture shop, “Can’s Rattan”. Mr. Can and his eponymous store claim to be the oldest private export furniture establishment in Hanoi, and while the shop is a little hole in the wall — a few samples spread over 3 floors of a tiny alley house — their stuff is all over town. Mr. Can himself is something of a character; he’s a bald fellow in his late 50’s, I think, with a sunny grin, a curiously Chinese-looking face, and a bad limp from some old injury that leaves him carrying a cane and moving at a relaxed pace appropriate to his careful, meditative disposition. He speaks excellent French and decent English. You can ask him to recommend furniture for you, or design something, and he’ll take an interest, but ask him how much he’ll charge and he passes you immediately on to his extremely charming wife, Hanh, who actually runs the business. He says he’s not actually interested in making furniture anymore; he spends most of his time reading and thinking.
We’ve since moved out of the alley to a different neighborhood, but we still go to Can for pretty much all our furniture. So yesterday I stopped by to confirm an order of a new table and six chairs, and we caught up a bit. I asked him what he’d been reading lately. He said he was mostly reading philosophy these days.
What? I asked. “Do you know Thomas Kuhn?” he asked.
It turns out he’s just done the first-ever translation of Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” into Vietnamese. It’ll be published by a small publishing house here in August. Richard Rorty may be next.
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