Nguyen Du (1766-1820) was born into turbulent times. His mother (a singer-songwriter) and his father (a poet, historian and senior figure in the Lê dynasty that had ruled Vietnam for centuries) died before he reached his teens; the Lê dynasty itself was overthrown in 1789 by a peasant uprising. When that uprising was in turn crushed (1802), Nguyen Du reluctantly accepted a diplomatic post in what would become Vietnam's final dynasty. Outwardly respectful to his new masters, he wroteThe Song of Kieu secretly, as an act of private rebellion. It remains perhaps the greatest masterpiece of Vietnamese literature.