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Vietnam / Cambodia

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Vietnam / Cambodia

Post by Ludmilla » Thu October 7th, 2010, 1:40 am

Does anyone have suggestions for novels about Vietnam or Cambodia set before the Vietnam War or far earlier in their history? One episode I'm interested in is what was happening over there during WWII (great famine and so forth). I was also looking at a historical, "Le Colonial" set in 18thc. Anyone heard of it or read it?

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Post by annis » Thu October 7th, 2010, 2:14 am

Christie Dickason's Dragon Riders aka Indochine is pretty good - it covers the forty years in Vietnam from the defeat of the French to the arrival of the Americans. There is a sequel called Tears of the Tiger which is set in the decade following the fall of Saigon.

Synopses on Dickason's website here:

Anthony Grey's Saigon

I also enjoyed Kien Nguyen's Tapestries, which is set in Vietnam early in the 20th century. He's the author of Le Colonial, which I haven't read.

There's also the very funny satire Dumb Luck written in 1936 by Vu Trong Phung and Marguerite Duras' autobiographical novel The Lover set in 1930s Indochina.

A good non-fiction book is Sacred Willow, an autobiographical family history following several generations in similar way to Jung Chang's Chinese family history, Wild Swans

I'd like to read a historical novel written about the Vietnamese break from Chinese domination in the tenth century, but haven't ever come across one.
Last edited by annis on Thu October 7th, 2010, 7:09 am, edited 8 times in total.

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Post by Ludmilla » Thu October 7th, 2010, 3:26 pm

Thanks, Annis. I'll look into those.
I'd like to read a historical novel written about the Vietnamese break from Chinese domination in the tenth century, but haven't ever come across one.
I would, too. There doesn't seem to be much out there about Vietnam or Cambodia. Maybe there is, but it hasn't been translated for an English audience. Not sure ... I've read some history about the Khmer Empire (very briefly summarized in larger history texts about Asia in general, e.g.), but I haven't discovered any historicals about the Khmer Empire. I haven't searched in depth, but I'm only aware of two novels about French Indochina or more specifically about Cambodia: Robert Macomber's The Honored Dead (part of the Honor series focused around the adventures of a 19thC Naval seaman) and Geoff Ryman's The King's Last Song, which combines a contemporary storyline with one from the past.

I did read another novel about Vietnam not long ago, The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli, which is about photojournalists covering the war until the fall of Saigon. It has been one of the few that I've discovered that has a Vietnamese PoV character. Reading about the war recently made me realize I really don't know enough about their past before the Americans became involved in the conflict (what I do know mostly comes from having watched the film Indochine with Catherine Deneuve and Vincent Perez, set in the 30s). I always figured reading about their far earlier history (before colonial rule) would be interesting but never found much beyond your standard encyclopedic summary on it.
Last edited by Ludmilla on Thu October 7th, 2010, 3:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Kveto from Prague » Thu February 24th, 2011, 8:51 pm

You probably know it already but theres Graham Greene's "the Quiet American". Ive not read it in a long time but no novel has ever explained the basis for the viertnam war so clearly, to my mind. It was also made into a great film with Micheal Caine a few years ago.

heres an interesting little documentary on it.
Last edited by Kveto from Prague on Thu February 24th, 2011, 9:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by annis » Fri February 25th, 2011, 4:23 am

I fairly recently discovered a terrific series -- Colin Cotterill's wonderfully out there, qurky set of mysteries set in Communist Laos in the mid-1970s. The main character is an elderly doctor appointed State Coroner due to lack of anyone else remotely suitable. (They've all hopped it over the Mekhong to capitalist Thailand or are being "re-educated"). Dr Siri is an ornery old cuss who doesn't suffer fools gladly, but is sharp as a tack, compassionate and possessed of a hilarious, dry sense of humour. Oh, and he is visited in his dreams by his "patients", who provide him with cryptic clues about their deaths.

These books really capture the nature of life in southeast Asia at the time, and the latest one brings to life the horrors of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. They cover more recent history, but make illuminating.reading. Just had the scary thought that it won’t be that long before the 1970s hit the 50 years distance from the present that qualifies as necessary for HF - gulp!

I agree with you about The Quiet American, Keny, and the Michael Caine movie is one of the most compelling I've seen.
Last edited by annis on Fri February 25th, 2011, 4:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Fri February 25th, 2011, 6:07 am

It's more Burma and Thailand, but if you want WWII, read George MacDonald Frazier's Quartered Safe Out Here, a memoir about his experience as a green young soldier. Excellent book, and really captures the immediacy of the situation.

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Post by Ludmilla » Fri February 25th, 2011, 4:01 pm

Just for fun -- because this is how I procrastinate -- I ran a few tagmashes on LT. Below is what came up. (looks like I need to try some Amitav Ghosh)

Tagmash: Fiction, Cambodia

Top works (84)

o The King's Last Song by Geoff Ryman
o Children of the River by Linda Crew
o Finding Moon by Tony Hillerman
o The Judas Strain by James Rollins
o The Gates of Ivory by Margaret Drabble
o Black Heart by Eric Van Lustbader
o Butterfly Stories: A Novel by William T. Vollmann
o Killing Fields by Christopher Hudson
o Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt
o Highways to a War by Christopher J. Koch
o The Vice Consul by Marguerite Duras
o Cambodia by Nick Ray
o The Gate by François Bizot
o The Kobra Manifesto by Adam Hall
o The Reckoning: A Thriller by Jeff Long
o The Hungry Tide: A Novel by Amitav Ghosh
o The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill
o When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge by Chanrithy Him
o Jungle Girl by Edgar Rice Burroughs
o Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan
o Unpolished Gem: My Mother, My Grandmother, and Me by Alice Pung
o Lightning on the Sun: A Novel by Robert Bingham
o Thirty-Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill
o La Voie Royale by Andre Malraux
o Cambodia: A Book For People Who Find Television Too Slow by Brian Fawcett
o Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell
o Swimming to Cambodia by Spalding Gray
o Jeg har set verden begynde by Carsten Jensen
o Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin by Michelle Lord
o Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill
o Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill
o Unconquered Country by Geoff Ryman
o Running Shoes by Frederick Lipp
o The Four Faces by Han Suyin
o The Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith
o The Disappeared by Kim Echlin
o For the Sake of All Living Things by John Del Vecchio
o The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh by Frederick Lipp
o The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
o Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It by Geoff Dyer
o A Nail Through the Heart by Timothy Hallinan
o River of Time by Jon Swain
o The Ends of the Earth: From Togo to Turkmenistan, from Iran… by Robert D. Kaplan
o Stay Alive, My Son by Pin Yathay
o Dragonfire by Andrew Kaplan
o The Clay Marble (Sunburst Book) by Minfong Ho
o Roots and Wings by Many Ly
o Last Lullaby: An Eve Diamond Novel (Eve Diamond Novels) by Denise Hamilton
o Dara's Cambodian New Year by Sothea Chiemruom
o Sanctuary, Volume 1 by Sho Fumimura
o Rising Up and Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence,… by William T. Vollmann
o Two Loves by Han Suyin
o Best New American Voices 2009 by Mary Gaitskill
o Hector und die Geheimnisse der Liebe by François Lelord
o Chantrea Conway's Story: A Voyage from Cambodia in… by Clare Pastore
o The Third Attempt by Nathan Mills
o The Terrible but Unfinished Story of Norodom Sihanouk, King… by Helene Cixous
o Liebesgeschichten aus Kambodscha by Christian Velder
o Secret Agent Jack Stalwart: The Secret of the Sacred Temple by Elizabeth Singer Hunt
o The Clay Marble: With Connections (HRW Library) by Minfong Ho
o Speaking for Myself: An Anthology of Asian Women's… by Sukrita Paul Kumar
o The Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill
o Sanctuary, Volume 4 by Sho Fumimura
o Voyages, 1872-1913 by Pierre Loti
o Sanctuary, Volume 6 by Sho Fumimura
o The Stone Goddess by Minfong Ho
o Little Brother by Allan Baillie
o Brass Diamonds by Berent Sandberg
o Norman Lewis Omnibus: A Dragon Apparent; Golden Earth; & A… by Norman Lewis
o The Angkor Massacre by Loup Durand
o Sanctuary, Volume 5 by Sho Fumimura
o Sanctuary, Volume 7 by Sho Fumimura
o A Wilderness Called Peace by Edmund Keeley
o The Bora Boys and the Last Big Door by Michael J. Feeney
o Sanctuary, Volume 2 by Sho Fumimura
o Sanctuary, Volume 8 by Sho Fumimura
o Sanctuary, Volume 9 by Sho Fumimura
o Sanctuary, Volume 3 by Sho Fumimura
o Incendiary Circumstances: A Chronicle of the Turmoil of our… by Amitav Ghosh
o Southeast Asia on a Shoestring by China Williams
o The Royal Road to Romance by Richard Halliburton
o Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great… by Paul Theroux
o Lost Cities of Asia by Wim Swaan
o The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World out… by Laurie Garrett

Tagmash: Fiction, Burma, WII

Top works (44)

o The Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle
o Elephant Run by Roland Smith
o The Glass Palace: A Novel by Amitav Ghosh
o Harp of Burma by Michio Takeyama
o A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
o The Purple Plain by H. E. Bates
o When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe
o The Singapore Grip by J. G. Farrell
o A Gesture Life: A Novel by Chang-Rae Lee
o The Chequer Board by Nevil Shute
o Fires on the Plain by Ooka Shohei
o Small Island by Andrea Levy
o Elephant Bill by J. H. Williams
o The Cider House Rules by John Irving
o The Soldier's Return by Melvyn Bragg
o The Railway Man by ERIC LOMAX
o Vienna by Eva Menasse
o The Splendor of Silence: A Novel by Indu Sundaresan
o Imprisoned in the Golden City: Adoniram and Ann Judson… by Dave and Neta Jackson
o The Jacaranda Tree by H. E. Bates
o The King's Rifle by Biyi Bandele
o Three Came Home by Agnes Newton Keith
o Burma Surgeon by Gordon S. Seagrave
o The Naked Island by Russell Reading Braddon
o George Orwell Omnibus: The Complete Novels: Animal Farm,… by George Orwell
o The Fugitive by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
o The Promise (Oriental Novels of Pearl S. Buck Series) by Pearl S. Buck
o Burma Surgeon Returns by Gordon Stifler Seagrave
o Bugles and a Tiger by John Masters
o Dust on the Sea by Douglas Reeman
o Burma Boy by Biyi Bandele
o Look Down in Mercy by Walter Baxter
o Never so few by Tom T. Chamales
o Echoes of War by William Riviere
o A Collection of Essays by George Orwell
o The man from Madura by Leslie Gillespie
o The Spotted Deer by J. H. Williams
o Combat Picture Library No. 33: Burma Patrol by GMS
o Honour the Shrine (Coronet Books) by Francis Clifford
o Bandoola by J. H. Williams
o The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters: An Age Like… by George Orwell
o Essays by George Orwell
o Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner
o A Leader Becomes a Leader: Inspirational Stories of… by J. Kevin Sheehan

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Post by sweetpotatoboy » Fri February 25th, 2011, 4:33 pm

[quote=""Ludmilla""]Just for fun -- because this is how I procrastinate -- I ran a few tagmashes on LT. [/quote]

So I'm not the only one who runs tagmashes for fun... !

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Post by annis » Fri February 25th, 2011, 7:25 pm

Some oldies there – I remember being fascinated by my grandfather’s copy of Elephant Bill when I was a kid! I’m a bit surprised that John Masters’ Bugles and a Tiger is on the WWII Burma list, as it’s the second volume of his autobiography, The Road Past Mandalay, that deals with his experiences in Burma.

Amitav Ghosh is excellent- I loved his Sea of Poppies and hooray, I see he has a sequel forthcoming sometime this year called River of Smoke.

Tagmashes are fun, but can be frustrating because they don’t separate out fiction and non-fiction, so you have to do a lot of further research to get more info.

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Post by Ash » Sat February 26th, 2011, 1:46 am

Wow, Ludmilla, thats a list to dive into! Tho there a few on there that I question: Small Island by Andrea Levy and The Cider House Rules by John Irving have nothing to do with Burma (tho SI is about Jamaicans in the British Army during WWII) And The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman is about a Hmong family from Laos who immigrated to America. Great book, but not about Cambodia.

I do like the idea of reading Sacred Willow, because I loved Wild Swans so much. If the comparison works, this one should be great!
Last edited by Ash on Sat February 26th, 2011, 1:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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