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French soldiers and Vietnamese farmers as authors?

Not enough intellectuals in the army? Quelle horreur! At least that seems to be the thinking in some corners of the French military. That's why prizes are being offered to encourage French soldiers to learn to ply the pen.

"In France, where intellectuals enjoy high social esteem and where soldiers dislike the stereotype of gun-toting automatons," reports London's TimesOnline,  "the army is looking for thinkers." That's why there's "a campaign to restore the reputation of their troops by encouraging them to get into print."

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According to TimesOline, "Prizes, including 4,000 Euros [about $5,000 US] and a vaguely abstract statue of a quill and a sword, were offered for the best book written by a member of the French armed forces since 2003."

In Vietnam, meanwhile, the government is worried that too much of the nation's contemporary literature focuses on urban life. To adjust that imbalance, Vietnamnet reports that the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture is offering prizes for short stories, plays, and life stories from the country's farmers.

The aim is "to help farmers express their feelings about their lives in a changing world."

"The beauty of the farmers’ lifestyle should be discovered under the eyes of writers," female author Pham Thi Ngoc Diep told Vietnamnet.