Archives de catégorie : Lectures / Readings

Cambodge : une vie banalement tragique – CR de lecture par Pierre Selger

A 74 ans, Ly San Meas a vécu sous six régimes politiques différents. Dans « Mon Cambodge », elle revient sur son destin à la fois ordinaire et poignant.

 

On imagine sans peine ce petit bout de femme penchée sur un cahier d’écolier pour y coucher les souvenirs d’une vie. Appliquée à tracer de belles lettres, dans un français à la grammaire parfaite. Tout aussi appliquée que lorsque, enfant, elle, la fille de presque rien, faisait honneur à sa bourse d’études. Elève brillante en français et en mathématiques, elle faisait la fierté de ses professeurs et de ses parents. Jolie, elle faisait des envieux parmi ses camarades et dans tout le voisinage. Mais, voilà au Cambodge d’aujourd’hui comme d’hier, quand on naît pauvre, on est rarement promis à un bon mariage. La grandeur d’âme, celle qui habite Ly San Meas, ne suffit pas à compenser la petitesse de la condition.

Très jeune, elle prend conscience de ces destinées toutes tracées. Surtout pour les plus démunis incapables de s’extraire de leur misère et d’échapper à l’avalanche de malheurs qui s’abat sur eux. «Pourquoi existe-t-il des gens pauvres, voire misérables, qui n’ont pas de quoi manger à leur faim, et des gens riches qui gagnent facilement leur vie et continuent à s’enrichir rapidement sans se donner de mal ?», s’interroge-t-elle en introduction de son odyssée qui s’étend de la Seconde guerre mondiale au rétablissement de la monarchie au début des années 1990, en passant par les années de guerre civile, l’innommable sous les Khmers rouges et la douloureuse renaissance ensuite. Ly San Meas est d’autant plus encline à croire au destin que, toute sa vie durant, les voyants et devins lui ont annoncé avec exactitude des événements à venir, au point même que, de retour à Phnom Penh en 1979 après l’horreur khmère rouge, elle suivra les prédictions de l’un d’entre eux.

Son récit est ainsi empreint d’un grand détachement. Comme si le cours de sa vie lui échappait, qu’elle se laissait porter par un flot indomptable. Comme si elle regardait telle une étrangère ces trois quarts de siècles écoulés. Est-ce par fatalisme ? Par pudeur ? Par souci de s’effacer, fidèle en cela à l’éducation inculquée dès son plus jeune âge ? Peut-être. Mais Ly San Meas refusera néanmoins toujours de céder à la résignation. Elle a appris à se battre, à survivre. Pour elle et les siens. Paraphrasant Alfred de Vigny, le même que Duch, ancien directeur du centre de torture de S21, se plaisait à citer devant ses juges, elle écrit : «Pleurer, gémir, crier, c’est également lâche. Remplis ta longue et lourde tâche, puis souffre et lutte sans parler.» Le poète parlait, lui, de mourir sans parler.

Pierre Selger

Réf. : Ly San Meas, Mon Cambodge – Le destin d’une femme, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2012. (sortie juin 2012).

Source : Asie Info, 10/10/2012.

‘Dragon Lady’ Memoirs Incomplete

A Time cover story on Madame Nhu appeared on August 9, 1963.

The official hostess in South Vietnam’s presidential palace says little of her heydays in her book.

The memoirs of Madame Nhu [1924-2011], the « first lady » of South Vietnam who died recently in exile in Rome, are not expected to shed light on her vast wealth and power, according to a family friend.

“Some readers are eagerly waiting for her memoirs because they want to see what she says about the rumor that she had 17 billion U.S. dollars or about the people who killed her husband. She did not mention those stories,” said  Truong Phu Thu, who is  translating the memoirs—already written by her in French— into Vietnamese.

Madame Nhu  was the sister-in-law of Vietnam’s bachelor President Ngo Dinh Diem, who was in power from 1955 until 1963, and considered herself the nation’s First Lady.  She was an influential and deeply feared political figure in the early days of the Vietnam war and was known as the Dragon Lady of South Vietnam.

Her real name was Tran le Xuan but she was popularly known as  Madame Nhu.

Military coup

Her husband, Ngo Dinh Nhu, was Diem’s brother. He controlled the secret police and special forces. Both men were killed in 1963 in a military coup.

“This memoir is not a normal memoir. Normally when you write a memoir, you write about all the stories that happened in your life, both the happy and sad ones, but this book is not like that,” Thu said in an interview.

“Anybody who wants to see sensational stories or any correction of what she had done should be prepared to be disappointed,” he said.

Thu said he had only received the first and second parts of her book—and is unsure if Nhu, who died at the age of 86, finished writing the final part on politics, which many had expected to be sensational.

The book was supposed to be published this September or October, but because of her death publishing will be delayed until next spring.

Nhu  said “she forgave everyone, including people who shot her husband, let alone people who defamed her,” according to Thu.

Meditation

Le Chau Loc, the personal assistant of President Diem who had read part of her book, said she also wrote about  meditation and prayers.

“I thought I was reading a memoir of a nun. I think she was suffering a lot …,” he said. “I think this book can be helpful to a lot of Vietnamese women who have been suffering, [who] lost husbands, or children at sea.”

Many Vietnamese perished when there was a mass emigration in  old and crudely made boats during the late 1970s, fleeing from Communist-controlled Vietnam following the Vietnam War.

Nhu, although married to the president’s brother, helped Diem run his household and offered her opinion on all of his decisions. She was once featured on the cover of Time magazine and became the public face of the South Vietnamese regime in media interviews and overseas speaking tours.

She was particularly outspoken against Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire in protest at Diem’s crackdowns.

Her harsh and confrontational words and actions forced her Buddhist father to quit as ambassador to the United States.

Quiet life

After the deaths of her husband and Diem, Madame Nhu was unable to return to Vietnam. She lived with her children in exile in France and Italy, where she led a quiet life until she was hospitalized in early April.

Thu said he had been receiving phone calls and emails enquiring about Nhu’s book, which she began writing about 10 years ago.

Thu said she first wanted translate it into Italian and English by herself but then changed her mind because it took too much time to write and also after being told her the readers would be mostly Vietnamese.

Reported for RFA’s Vietnamese service and translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Rachel Baker.

Source : RFA, 2011-05-04.

Giới thiệu « Hồi Ký Trả Ta Sông Núi » của Ðại tá Phạm Văn Liễu

Phạm Ðiền Như vào tối Thứ Bảy hằng tuần, tạp chí Văn Học Nghệ Thuật do Phạm Điền phụ trách lại đến với quý vị nghe đài. Trả Ta Sông Núi là tựa đề cuốn Hồi Ký của đại tá Phạm Văn Liễu, do nhà xuất bản Văn Hóa ở Houston, Texas ấn hành. Cuốn I và II đã được phổ biến, cuốn III trên đường đến nhà in. Tuần này tạp chí giới thiệu cuốn hồi ký Trả Ta Sông Núi của cựu đại tá Phạm Văn Liễu…

Trong tình trạng sách vở viết về Việt Nam còn thiếu thốn hiện nay, thêm một cuốn sách được một người trong cuộc, từng nằm trong cơn lốc và chứng nhân của các biến động lịch sử kéo dài từ năm 1945 cho đến 1975, tự nó có một giá trị đóng góp lớn cho việc tìm hiểu các sự kiện lịch sử quan trong trong giai đọan lịch sử này.

Tác giả viết hồi ký về cuộc đời mình nên không tránh khỏi những phê phán chủ quan. Độc giả, từ nhiều hướng nhìn khác nhau, có thể đồng ý hay không đồng ý đối với các phê phán lịch sử đó của tác giả. Tuy nhiên , các sự việc tác giả nêu ra với tư cách một người trong cuộc, tự nó cống hiến các sự kiện giá trị, giúp người đọc thấy được bối cảnh chính trị của nhiều thập niên qua, khi dân Việt bước vào giai đọan chiến đấu chống thực dân Pháp và sau đó là chủ nghĩa cộng sản.

Việc để lại cho thế hệ trẻ kinh nghiệm Việt Nam là chủ trương chính của tác giả Phạm Văn Liễu khi viết hồi ký chọn tựa đề cho các tập hồi ký này là “Trả Ta Sông Núi”. Ông Phạm Văn Liễu không xem viết hồi ký là một trò chơi văn chương. Ông muốn qua cuốn hồi ký, kể lại được các trạng huống, các cơn lốc lịch sử và trách nhiệm của thế hệ thanh niên lên đường thập niên 40, tham gia chính trị hay ở trong quân đội. Ông đề cập đến các nguyện ước, hòai bão từ thuở thiếu thời cho đến nay.

Tác giả Pham Văn Liễu thuộc thế hệ thanh niên sống lý tưởng và tham dự trực tiếp vào các cuộc chiến đấu ngay từ giữa thập niên 1940 , can dự trong nhiều vai trò khác nhau. Sau ngày miền Nam sụp đổ, sống lưu vong tại Hoa Kỳ, ông Phạm Văn Liễu tiếp tục theo đuổi cuộc đấu tranh cho nhân quyền và dân chủ ở Việt Nam. Do sức khỏe bị suy yếu, sau thời gian bị kích tim , việc viết hồi ký là phương tiện để đại tá Phạm Văn Liễu kéo dài cuộc tranh đấu.

Trang bìa sau tập Hồi Ký Trả Ta Sông Núi, tác giả không đề cập đến sự thành công, mức độ thành đạt trên đường sự nghiệp mà chỉ cho hay, ông “ nghiền ngẫm viết lại những lỗi lầm đời mình dài theo dòng lịch sử quốc dân làm món quà cho người bạn trẻ”. Một đọan khác, ông viết nguyên văn “ biết đâu những kinh nghiệm máu và nước mắt đời tôi chẳng giúp cho vài ba bạn trẻ nào đó hằng tâm với đất nước, tránh được những vết xe đổ của người đi trước. Ông Phạm Văn Liễu cho biết đó là tâm nguyện duy nhất của người viết.

Tác giả Phạm Văn Liễu, 75 tuổi, sinh quán làng Thọ Vực, phủ Xuân Trường, tỉnh Nam Định. Phần lớn thanh niên thế hệ ông sống có lý tường, yêu nước và tham gia các họat động đấu tranh giành độc lập từ sớm. Năm 1945, ông đã vào trường Quân Chính Vĩnh Yên ở Việt Trì, sau đó trường Lục Quân Trần Quốc Tuấn ở Yên Bái. Sau khi trốn sang Tàu một thời gian vì bị ruồng nã, ông trở về nước và chọn binh nghiệp. Ông tốt nghiệp Võ Bị Liên Quân Đà Lạt khóa 5 vào năm 1952, sau đó là trường Hải Quân Nha Trang.

Ông Phạm Văn Liễu từng sang Mỹ tham dự các khóa tu nghiệp quân sự ở Fort Benning , tiểu bang Georgia, Hoa Kỳ trong hai năm 1956-1957.

Cuộc đời của ông là một chuỗi thăng trầm. Danh sách các chức vụ ông được giao phó trong quân đội cũng như chính quyền dân sự khá dài, chúng tôi chỉ nêu một vài trách nhiệm được nhiều người biết hơn cả trong đó có Sáng lập và Chỉ Huy Trưởng Thủy Quân Lục Chiến Việt Nam 1955, Tham Mưu Trưởng trường Võ Bị Quốc Gia Đà Lạt năm 1957, Chỉ Huy Trưởng Trung Tâm Huấn Luyện Quang Trung Năm 1964. Thứ trưởng Bộ Thanh Niên Nội Các Phan Huy Quát 1965, Tổng Giám Đốc Cảnh Sát Quốc Gia năm 1965-66. Về họat động xã hội và chính trị, năm 1945, tác giả tham gia đòan Thanh Niên Khất Thực để cứu đói 1945; Đại Việt Quốc Dân Đảng 1945. Từng lưu vong qua Trung Hoa 1946 đến 49, lưu vong qua Kampuchia từ 1960 đến 1965 vì liên hệ đến vụ đảo chánh bất thành và từ sau tháng Tư năm 1975, sống lưu vong tại Mỹ.

Trong cuộc đời họat động kéo dài từ giữa thập niên 1940 đến nay, ông Phạm Văn Liễu trực tiếp hay gián tiếp đã có mặt trong các biến động và có cơ hội tiếp xúc, liên hệ đến các nhân vật thời cuộc. Ngay chính ông cũng là một nhân vật có nhiều huyền thọai, như tham dự cuộc đảo chính hụt Tổng Thống Ngô Đình Diệm 1960, và chính biến nhằm lật đổ tướng Nguyễn Khánh.

* * *

Phạm Ðiền Như vào tối Thứ Bảy hằng tuần, tạp chí Văn Học Nghệ Thuật lại đến với quý thính giả. Tuần này tạp chí tiếp tục đề cập đến hồi ký Trả Ta Sông Núi qua cuộc nói chuyện với tác giả Phạm Văn Liễu. Đây cũng là kỳ chót về đề tài này…

Đại tá Phạm Văn Liễu tham dự cuộc đảo chánh lật đổ chế độ Ngô Đình Diệm 11 tháng 11 năm 1960. Khi nỗ lực này thất bại ông cùng với Đại tá Nguyễn Chánh Thi và một số nhân vật khác chạy sang sống lưu vong ở Cambodia. Mãi cho đến năm 1963, khi cuộc đảo chính lật đổ ông Diệm thành công, Hội Đồng Tướng Lãnh đã cho nhóm lưu vong ở Cambodia về nước.

Tiếp sau năm 1963 , miền nam Việt Nam bị xáo trôn mạnh vì những cuộc lên đường, xuống đường của sinh viên, giáo phái, của xung đột chính trị nội bộ. Các cuộc chỉnh lý, chính biến, triệt hạ quyền lực giữa các tướng lãnh đã xảy ra. Sự lên xuống hay thay bậc đổi ngôi của các nhân sự lãnh đạo đã khiến miền nam liên tục bị bất ổn. Ngòai xáo trộn nội bộ, đây cũng là giai đọan cộng sản Miền Bắc khai thác các kẽ hở, và sự suy yếu của miền Nam để gia tăng các họat động của họ. Tập II của Hồi Ký Trả Ta Sông Núi đưa ra rất nhiều chi tiết phong phú mô tả giai đọan tao lọan này.

Cuốn hồi ký Trả Ta Sông Núi cống hiến nhiều dữ kiện lịch sử rất đáng chú ý. Vì thời lượng, tạp chí chỉ nêu một điểm đại cương tác giả đã tâm sự. Mời quý thính giả theo dõi…

© 2004 Radio Free Asia, 2003-04-03 : phần I ; phần II

Le Ly Hayslip : Entre Ciel et Terre – par Hélène Lê

S’il est un seul bouquin à recommander aux générations qui par chance ne vécurent pas la Guerre du Vietnam, il s’agit bien d’Entre le Ciel et la Terre (When Heaven and Earth change places : A Vietnamese Woman’s Journey from War to Peace).

Le Ly Hayslip, à l’aide de Jay Wurts, y conte son parcours de simple paysanne vietnamienne, tour à tour enfant, soldate, amante. Edité en 1998, le texte n’a pas perdu de sa force et s’ancre plus que jamais dans l’actualité. Le destin de cette grande dame qui inspira Oliver Stone, pour un troisième film consacré à la guerre du Vietnam (Entre Ciel et Terre, 1993), fascine par la compassion qui s’en dégage.

Parce qu’il est un témoignage de femme – un des seuls qu’il soit possible de trouver en librairie -, cet ouvrage autobiographique est dénué d’une violence cliché que l’on associe à la Guerre du Vietnam, nombre de films cultes aidant. Le Ly Hayslip ouvre les portes d’un dialogue en vu d’une compréhension, dont le manque engendra la haine sous ses yeux d’enfant, d’adolescente puis de femme. Pour la première fois, une Vietnamienne tente de saisir à l’aide des enseignements bouddhistes reçus de son père, le mécanisme complexe de la violence, omniprésent dans son existence. Dire qu’elle y parvient lui volerait de son crédit et pourtant… Au fil des pages, pardonner et aimer ses propres bourreaux devient possible, à l’instar de ce qu’elle fit.

S’il n’y avait pas eu son désir de paix, qui aurait braqué les projecteurs sur de simples paysans, acteurs obligés de cette guerre ? Du côté américain, les hommages aux soldats vétérans ne font pas défaut. A tel point qu’il n’est plus un seul Américain qui ne sache les séquelles psychologiques liées aux multiples massacres perpétrés au Vietnam.
En revanche, on néglige par manque de matière les dommages collatéraux qu’elle causa chez toute une génération de paysans vietnamiens enrôlés dans un idéal de patriotisme instrumentalisé. Le Ly Hayslip rétablit cet oubli à travers une réflexion sur le concept de bonheur chez les Vietnamiens, intelligemment confronté à celui de ses compatriotes d’adoption américains.

A l’adresse des Vietnamiens qui ont fui le pays suite à la guerre, Le Ly Hayslip offre un hommage symbolique à ceux qui comme elle, demeurent entre ciel et terre. Mais bien au delà d’une simple leçon d’amour, il s’agit d’un puissant message universel de tolérance et de paix. La seule arme qui vaille véritablement la peine d’être dégainée.

Hélène Le

A lire !
Hayslip Le Ly, When Heaven and Earth change places : A Vietnamese Woman’s journey from War to Peace, 1989.

Hayslip Le Ly, Child of War, Woman of Peace, 1993.

Réf. : Le Ly Hayslip (avec Jay Wurst), Entre le ciel et la terre, Paris : Editions du Seuil, 1993.

Source : Buddha Channel TV

* * *

« En 1986, citoyenne des Etats-Unis après avoir vécu seize ans en Amérique, je suis retourné au Vietnam. Je voulais savoir ce qu’étaient devenus ma famille, mon village, mon peuple et l’homme que j’avais aimé et qui m’avait donné mon premier fils. Je suis partie avec beaucoup de souvenirs et de nombreuses questions. Ce livre est l’histoire de ce dont je me souviens et de ce que j’ai découvert. »

Phung Thi Le Ly Hayslip

San Diego, Californie, 1989

Jackie Bong-Wright: Autumn Cloud – From Vietnam War Widow to American Activist [2001]

Jackie Bong-Wright, Autumn cloud: From Vietnam war widow to American activist, Sterling, Va., Capital Books, 2001, 311 p.

While the Vietnam War is deeply ingrained in a generation of Americans, its history is often one-sided – flavored with blame, corrupt generals and politicians, drugs, and the Viet Cong. What is rarely heard is the compelling story of ordinary people who struggled amidst chaos and upheaval. « Autumn Cloud » is that story. Born at the beginning of World War II, Jackie Bong Wright stands at the center of the modern Indochinese drama. « Autumn Cloud » follows Ms. Wright as she moves from girlhood on a Cambodian rubber plantation to school in Paris, marries a leading political dissident who is later murdered, escapes to America in 1975 with her children, and makes a new life here with a new American husband.

 

* * *

Le Thi Thu Van, whose first name translates as Autumn Cloud, was born in 1940 in Cambodia, where her affluent Vietnamese parents lived. She and her large family, like millions of other southern Vietnamese, were profoundly affected by the wars and civil unrest that buffeted Southeast Asia for most of the next four decades: the Japanese occupation during World War II; the First Indochina War from 1945 to 1954, which ended with the humiliating French defeat at Dien Bien Phu; and the American war, which began incrementally in the mid-’50s, peaked in the late-’60s and ended ingloriously with the Communist victory in 1975. Le Thi Thu Van’s family suffered in many ways during these momentous events. The family fortune was lost; one sister abandoned the family to devote her life to the Communist revolution; a brother was killed in the American war; another brother did not survive the Communist postwar « re-education » camps. The author married a reform-minded South Vietnamese politician; he was assassinated, probably by the Vietcong. She was left with three young children. Le Thi Thu Van tells three stories in this smoothly written autobiography: her own, her family’s and Vietnam’s. The most effective sections are the straightforward depictions of the many and varied events of the author’s life and her explanations of Vietnamese society and culture. The least successful are the sketchy historical sections and the author’s staunchly anti-Communist analyses of the reasons behind the American defeat. Overall, though, the author shows very well how Le Thi Thu Van went from « being an innocent girl to a sophisticated wife, an unexpected widow, and finally a professional woman, » known on three continents as Jackie Bong Wright.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

 

 Source : Virtual Saigon © 1973 New York Times / Barbara Gluck Treaster

Lan P. Duong: Treacherous Subjects – Gender, Culture, and Trans-Vietnamese Feminism

Avis de parution. Lan P. Duong, Treacherous Subjects: Gender, Culture, and Trans-Vietnamese Feminism, Temple University Press, Asian American History & Culture, 2012, 264 p.

Treacherous Subjects is a provocative and thoughtful examination of Vietnamese films and literature viewed through a feminist lens. Lan Duong investigates the postwar cultural productions of writers and filmmakers, including Tony Bui, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Tran Anh Hung. Taking her cue from the double meaning of « collaborator, » Duong shows how history has shaped the loyalties and shifting alliances of the Vietnamese, many of whom are caught between opposing/constricting forces of nationalism, patriarchy, and communism.

Working at home and in France and the United States, the artists profiled in Treacherous Subjects have grappled with the political and historic meanings of collaboration. These themes, which probe into controversial issues of family and betrayal, figure heavily in fictions such as the films The Scent of Green Papaya and Surname Viet Given Name Nam. As writers and filmmakers collaborate, Duong suggests that they lay the groundwork for both transnational feminist politics and queer critiques of patriarchy.

Lan P. Duong is Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside.

* * *

« Duong’s Treacherous Subjects inaugurates sui generis the field of diasporic Vietnamese feminism. She instructs us what objects and subjects to look at and study, how they might be comprehended, and why such inquiry is so crucial for all of us. I can’t think of another cultural studies project in a decade that has accomplished so much in one book. Duong’s careful consideration of both filmic and literary genres demonstrates her explicatory erudition. Treacherous Subjects is a monumental work upon which a generation of future students and scholars will build. It will establish Duong as the principal intellectual figure of the field she will have helped to establish. »
James Kyung-Jin Lee, Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Asian American Studies, University of California, Irvine.

* * *

« Treacherous Subjects offers a new reading of literary and filmic texts by Vietnamese and Vietnamese diasporics that rethinks the nation in its gendered, sexualized, and political economic representations. Duong argues that Vietnamese writers and filmmakers from Vietnam, France, and the U.S. evoke the family to imagine the body politic, which is now a transnational one. Duong’s methods are very innovative. In each chapter, she pairs works by artists in different national contexts. Her approach allows for new ways to think through a number of issues with political import. I know of few books that put forth this reading which problematizes the nation and its heteronormative boundaries as effectively as this work does. »
Nguyen-vo Thu-huong, Associate Professor, Asian Languages and Cultures, and Asian American Studies, UCLA

 

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Manufacturing Feminine Virtue for the Diaspora: The Films of Tony Bui and Tran Anh Hung
2. Colonial Histories, Postcolonial Narratives: Traitors and Collaborators in Vietnamese Women’s Diasporic Literature
3. Heroines and Traitors: The Gendered Fictions of Đặng Nhật Minh and Dương Thư Hương
4. Traitors and Translators: Reframing Trinh T. Minh-ha’s Surname Viet Given Name Nam and A Tale of Love
5. Betraying Feminine Virtue: Collaborative Effects and the Transnational Circuits of Vietnamese Popular Culture
Conclusion: Family Politics and the Art of Collaboration
Notes
Works Cited
Index

Source : Temple University Press

Review of Memory is Another Country

February 21st, 2011 by Laura Chirot, NM-TLC Reviewer /// Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen, Memory is another country. Women of the Vietnamese Diaspora, Santa Barbara, California: Praeger, 2009, 212 p.

In his memoir Perfume Dreams, Vietnamese-American writer Andrew Lam recalls his initial impressions of the United States as an eleven year old refugee. The son of a general in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam who fled Saigon with his parents in 1975, Lam wondered at the insularity of his American classmates’ lives. He remembers thinking, “There were times… when I was very envious of you. History happened to others on TV and you—you who grew up where everyone else wanted to live—could always change the channel. Other times I felt sorry for you. Your immunity from history robs you of the awe and appreciation of seeing how its powerful flow and surge can change everyone, near or far” (1). In twentieth-century Vietnam, as in wartime Europe and other societies rent by war, nobody was immune to the powerful flow and surge of history, which seared people’s private lives.

In Memory is Another Country: Women of the Vietnamese Diaspora, Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen tells the stories of dozens of Vietnamese women in Australia whose lives were shaped by war, revolution and exodus. Nguyen’s narrators discuss their childhoods, families, marriages, careers, losses and refugee experiences.

The book’s haunting postwar images are familiar in the literature of the Vietnamese diaspora: “re-education” expected to last ten days but stretching into a nightmare of months and years; entire families drowning at sea; the corrosive effects of forced exile on family life; and the ever present yearning for an irrevocably lost homeland.

What makes this book remarkable is the number of stories that it collects—the author interviewed forty-two women over the course of a three year oral history project—and its focus on women. Despite the abundant documentation of the Vietnamese refugee experience, Nguyen points out, narratives from the women of South Vietnam are largely absent from the record. Cultural constraints, the pressure to provide for their families in countries of resettlement, the lack of public fora, and the impulse to bury past sorrows under silence are all factors that have kept women from telling their stories.

Nguyen sets out to remedy this absence, in detail and with compassion. She organizes her narrators’ stories into thematic chapters on loss, sisterhood, female soldiers, war, marriage to foreigners and return to Vietnam. Each chapter highlights between two and four women.

Nguyen lets her narrators—identified only by first name—speak for themselves, using long, uninterrupted blocks of quotation. Their narratives are bracketed by Nguyen’s commentary on historical contexts and common themes, and overlaid with theories of trauma and memory.

The theoretical aspect of the book focuses on the construction of memory after traumatic experiences, and the emotional, cultural and gendered aspects of making memory. Against this background, the book’s title takes on two meanings: memory is another country, the lost homeland of South Vietnam, but memory is also a country in itself, where the “memoryscape” is peopled with living and dead relatives and contoured with villages and city boulevards frozen in the past.

The most compelling aspect of Memory Is Another Country is the stories themselves, which form a collage of images of wartime and postwar Vietnam, viewed from the refugeenarrators’ perspective. A nanny remembers seeing children die by the side of a road in the North during the 1945 famine. A former diplomat in South Vietnam’s foreign service falls in love with an Englishman while posted in Europe. A singer performs in nightclubs in the South with the famous Khánh Ly. A southern provincial cinema is bombed by “the Viet Cong” during the screening of a Japanese action film in 1972. A Catholic girl and her family flee south from Thanh Hóa in 1954, paying off Viet Minh cadres along the way, and are greeted by representatives of the International Rescue Committee in Saigon. Another narrator is sheltered during her flight south by her uncle Phan Huy Quát, a State of Vietnam minister of defense who would later serve briefly as prime minister of the Republic of Vietnam. A daughter of Vietnamese colonial administrators leads a privileged, cosmopolitan life in the Phnom Penh of the 1950s and 1960s; her aunt, married to a cousin of Norodom Sihanouk, is later executed by the Khmer Rouge. Before escaping Vietnam by boat, another woman obsessively studies the English names for 200 types of diseases, in case she falls ill while abroad. An overseas Vietnamese returns to her birthplace in Nghệ An in the 1990s to learn that her mother, a benevolent landlord who provided meals for peasants during the 1945 famine, had been denounced during the land reform campaign by those very same peasants.

A set of particularly evocative stories emerges from Nguyen’s narrators’ memories of South Vietnamese society. The women remember a cosmopolitan Republic of Vietnam that accords with Hue-Tam Ho Tai’s observation: “In both the nostalgic recollections of disaffected southerners and the wishful projections of envious northerners, this pre-1975 South is not marked by war, chaos or corruption, but represents an era of abundant consumer goods and relative freedom” (2). These women came of age in the 1950s and 1960s, many as members of prosperous urban families, and they remember the South as a place where young women could pursue their intellectual and professional dreams—dreams which were, of course, quashed with the end of the war. One woman studies medicine and hopes to become a hospital director, inspired by her father who is a prominent acupuncturist and South Vietnamese official. In 1975 she is ejected from university because of her family’s political background. A second woman is in her final year of law school at the University of Saigon when the war ends and the new government shuts down the university. The sharp rupture of April 1975 accentuates the women’s nostalgia for pre-socialist years.

Particularly poignant is the reminiscence of the daughter of booksellers in Biên Hòa who recalls that before 1975, “I read Tolstoy, Romain Rolland, Balzac, Thomas Hardy, I read all the Western writers before I read any Vietnamese books” (p. 16). Her parents’ bookstore and books are destroyed in the postwar campaign against decadent literature:

After 1975, all the books were confiscated and taken away by the government, including all the textbooks of biology, mathematics, physics, chemistry, all the dictionaries and you know things that are not ideological . . . [I]n order to create a fair society, a socialist society, individuals had to make sacrifices so my father’s bookshops happened to be in the pathway of history, and history had just crushed my father’s business in order to make everyone enlightened. (p. 21)

The narrators who do try to accommodate themselves to life in a communist society find themselves unable to do so. The daughter of an ethnic Chinese woman in Buôn Ma Thuột joins a youth singing troupe after the end of the war. She is shunned and called bộ đội (the term for communist soldiers) by her old friends, but as tensions flare along the northern border she is compelled to sing anti-Chinese songs and must also endure ethnic slurs from fellow members of the troupe. Another narrator remembers having constant headaches from the incessant blaring of the ubiquitous public loudspeakers that became hallmarks of life after April 1975.

The book’s most interesting historical contribution comes in its third chapter, which chronicles women’s participation in the armed services of South Vietnam. The Women’s Armed Forces Corps (WAFC) originated in the 1950s as an auxiliary corps. By 1975 it consisted of 6,000 women serving in non-combat positions (mostly as nurses). Nguyen argues that, while women’s contribution to the war in the North has been amply recorded, the contribution of women to the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces and the southern war effort has gone largely unrecognized. (One reason is the imbalance in numbers: 60,000 women may have served in the war-time People’s Army of Vietnam.) She interviews four former servicewomen, women who saw service as a route to adventure, independence, and better social status for their families. One woman, Thuy, was a 1954 migrant to the South who joined the WAFC parachute unit, “to hasten the possibility of returning to North Vietnam” (p. 63). Another, Quy, was a student at Saigon’s prestigious Gia Long High School who joined after a Viet Minh cadre threatened to denounce her family in revenge for her refusal to marry him. (Quy’s family later received news that the cadre died in battle.) The women’s patriotism is on full display: one narrator says, “I was in the armed forces and I know that our army fought bravely and tenaciously. They were not lukewarm in their fighting” (p. 84).

At the war’s end, all four of Nguyen’s female veterans were sent to re-education camps. Women who had served in the armed forces and civil service of the Republic of Vietnam, as well as those caught attempting to flee the newly reunified country, could be arrested. Yet there is no re-education memoir published in English or French and written by a woman to accompany the numerous male accounts. One of the narrators was pregnant during her three months of internment. Another describes writing interminable self-criticisms, terrified each time that she would slip and write an inconsistent detail. Lest we think, though, that things were simple, a third narrator describes the humane treatment that prisoners at her camp received from the camp’s sympathetic (and southern) female director. Chapter 3 ends with a moving description of contemporary women’s veterans’ associations, the most invisible and forgotten branch of an already forgotten and much maligned armed force, organizing marches and charity drives in California to aid ailing female veterans in Vietnam.

Decisions about the organization of narrative material are crucial to a collection like this one. Nguyen does not make clear why she chose the particular chapter themes that she did, which overlap somewhat (for example, “war” and “loss” run throughout every story). Nor does she explain why only half of the 42 women interviewed are featured in the book.

A question never addressed in Memory Is Another Country is the ways in which the memories of women who came of age in the Republic of Vietnam and stayed in Vietnam differ from those who left. Would women who did not endure the bitter refugee experience have the same nostalgia for South Vietnam, and for the same reasons? Quite possibly—wistfulness for the intellectual and social freedoms of pre-1975 Saigon is evident even today in conversations with older people in Ho Chi Minh City. But the Vietnamese diaspora is not the sole repository of memories of South Vietnam, and there is a growing (though still restricted) space in contemporary Vietnam for discussion of pre-1975 South Vietnamese society. Some comparison of memory in the diaspora and in contemporary Vietnam might augment the book’s narrative.

As it is, however, Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen’s recording of the stories of this aging generation is extremely valuable. She tells us that the act of remembering, and of documenting memory, is redemptive. The ultimate purpose of her book is not to substantiate or dispute historical facts, but to honor the memories, and thereby the lives and losses, of women of the Vietnamese diaspora.

Laura Chirot graduated from Harvard College in 2008. She spent 2009 and 2010 on the research staff of Vietnam Program of the Harvard Kennedy School (www.ash.harvard.edu/ash/Home/Programs/Institute-for-Asia/Vietnam) in Ho Chi Minh City.

1. Andrew Lam, Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora (Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2005), p. 43.
2. Hue-Tam Ho Tai, The Country of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late Socialist Vietnam (Berkeley and Lost Angeles: University of California Press, 2001), p. 182.

Source : New Mandala

Aperçu sur Google Books

Gina Marie Weaver : Ideologies of Forgetting – Rape in the Vietnam War

Gina Marie Weaver, Ideologies of Forgetting. Rape in the Vietnam War, New York, State University of New York Press, 2010, 198 p.

First book to study rape and sexual abuse of Vietnamese women by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War.

Rape has long been a part of war, and recent conflicts in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur demonstrate that it may be becoming an even more integral strategy of modern warfare. In contrast to the media attention to sexual violence against women in these recent conflicts, however, the incidence and consequences of rape in the Vietnam War have been largely overlooked. Using testimony, oral accounts, literature, and film, Ideologies of Forgetting focuses on the rape and sexual abuse of Vietnamese women by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War, and argues that the erasure and elision of these practices of sexual violence in the U.S. popular imagination perpetuate the violent masculinity central to contemporary U.S. military culture. Gina Marie Weaver claims that recognition of this violence is important not just for an accurate historical record, but also to truly understand the Vietnam veteran’s trauma, which often stems from his aggression rather than his victimization.

“This is exactly the moment to take a new hard hook at the incidents of rape in the U.S. war in Vietnam—and its extended consequences for both the victims and the perpetrators of those rapes.” — Cynthia Enloe, author of Globalization and Militarism: Feminists Make the Link

“At a time when the phrase ‘support our troops’ has become a national mantra, recognition of how that support was enabled and narrativized becomes even more important.” — Susan Jeffords, author of The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War

Gina Marie Weaver is Assistant Professor of English at Southern Nazarene University.

Aperçu sur Google Books

Vietnamese Women in the War: a review – by Ernest Bolt

Many Americans who are more or less familiar with our Vietnam Experience know less about American women in the war. Many think all American women who were in Vietnam were nurses. Later our class will focus more on American women, but the People’s War materials must certainly include Vietnamese women and the war. Yet this is probably the least known and the last-studied aspect of the Vietnam Wars.

This has begun to change, however, and our Duiker text, Sacred War, is a good example of such change. Even better indicators of scholarly interest in Vietnamese women in the war are two recently published works by historians.

 

Dr. Karen G. Turner is an East Asia scholar at Holy Cross College who published, with the assistance of Hanoi journalist-interpreter Thanh Hao Phan, Even the Women Must Fight: Memories of War from North Vietnam (1998).


 

From army reports, diaries, and oral interviews, Turner and Thanh offer the reader a sampling of stories told by North Vietnamese women who fought in the Vietnamese wars against both the French and the Americans. One interesting outcome of their work was production of a map showing places of significance to these women — places they fought and survived and places where others died. The map, on page xii, shows some already familiar places but also some less well known to other scholars of the war.

The Turner-Thanh study is also well-illustrated with photos of women veterans who were interviewed as well as many from the Vietnam Women’s Museum in Hanoi. This is a museum which honors the roles of women from both the north, from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and the south — from the Republic of Vietnam.

Students and other readers of Even the Women Must Fight will also become familiar with Vietnamese heroines. Among them is Madame Nguyen Thi Dinh, who is featured on this People’s War module.

Others, not as frequently noted by historians and political scientists, include Nguyen Thi Duc Hoan, actress-director and film maker in Hanoi. Several of her films deal with Hanoi youth and war-related service and/or women’s issues: « From a Jungle » (1978), « Love and Distance » (1980s), « Obsession » (1978), « Love Story by a River » (1991).

She left home as a young girl to participate in the anti-French resistance and was a guerrilla fighter by the time the Americans came in large numbers. Her daughter by then, in the 1960s, trained in the militia. Turner quotes from her interview of Duc Hoan: « At no other time in Vietnam’s history was the will of the people more necessary for national survival. When even the gentlest Vietnamese woman could be inspired to enter the male world of violence for her country and when she learned to do the job well, the war had become in reality a total people’s war. » (p. 47)

Another Vietnamese woman whom Turner profiles is Ngo Thi Tuyen. Her heroism relates to her key role, in April 1965, in the supplying of Vietnamese defense of Dragon’s Jaw Bridge, a key point on the Highway 1 north-south artery in Vietnam. Rebuilt and dedicated in 1964, American air attacks the next year failed to destroy it; it was not until 1972 that American bombing efforts accomplished that goal. Ngo Thi Tuyen had helped down some of the attacking American planes on April 3 and 4, 1965. Until the present day, she has been honored with badges and frequent celebrations of her heroism. Turner effectively mixes and compares Vietnamese accounts and American accounts of the April 4 U.S. efforts — reported as the dropping of over 300 bombs. She concludes that this was one of the frequent tests of wills.

Turner relates Ngo Thi Tuyen’s story, based on her 1997 interview with the former militia woman. The setting was the local « commemoration house, » a type of local museum which depicts the bridge and the role of Tuyen and others to defend it. She told of the recent visit of former American POW Jeremiah Denton, one of the pilots shot down and captured during the mission in which Tuyen had figured so prominently.

The Vietnamese today have many museums, and I have visited some of them. The ones in Thanh Hoa Province, however, are among those I still must visit. This was the province in which the Dragon bridge was located, a province with a thousand-year revolutionary history. Many young men and women in the province contributed to the war effort in the Volunteer Youth Corps, working on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, or in local militia forces.

Work on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, in fact, is the subject of three chapters, one-third of Even the Women Must Fight. Due to the importance of this trail and its significance in helping to determine the outcome of the Vietnam War with the U.S., this emphasis is justified. The author engages in thick description and uses many examples of women (and men) who worked on the trail. Teenagers with shovels and AK-47s kept the trail cleared and repaired following constant bombing attacks. They worked under severe hardships and relied on local support rather than significant government and army support. According to Turner, citing Vietnamese media attention recently, they have also not received the postwar services that they deserve. Turner’s examples of women she interviewed, road builders, members of the Youth Corps, and veterans of special groups (such as Troop C814), are numerous, and the testimony of most was similar. They performed war duties not to defend socialism or to win a global struggle; rather they defended their homeland as a « place to raise future generations. » As Turner puts it, they left home to « save home. » (p. 82)

One of the best features of this study is the use of several postwar paintings by Nguyen Ngoc Tuan, a militia woman during the war. It is also interesting to note evidence, once more, that the Vietnamese write and treasure poetry. Examples of Vietnamese writing furnished in this study also include womens’ memoir writings. Some writings of women warriors used by Turner are in the Combined Document Exploitation Center (CDEC) in Saigon. She utilized those records of life and service data to draw examples and to find meanings of women’s war experiences. Those materials, according to Turner, reflect greater evidence of discrimination against women than is often recalled from memory today. The CDEC records cover the 1966 to 1973 period and remain a little-used resource for examining individual war experiences.

When dealing with « Meanings, » Turner turns more and more to an analysis of the 1990s based upon her broader observations in Hanoi and northern Vietnam while engaged in her research and interviews. She relates, for example, her visit to Dien Bien Phu and the memorials in the Vietnamese cemetery there. One of the most interesting statues to her is that of two women standing and shielding a young soldier. There is also a stone mural commemorating the role of women porters. From selected examples in recent Vietnamese literature by men and women writers, she also draws meanings, including the postwar treatment of war mothers as martyrs and symbols of Vietnamese endurance and sacrifice. She also connects her sources and analysis to present women’s issues in Vietnam, concluding that « the (women) survivors who live poorly have become potent symbols of the costs of war. » (p. 179)

 

Dr. Sandra C. Taylor, Professor of History at the University of Utah, is the author of the most-recent book on Vietnamese women in the war. Vietnamese Women at War: Fighting for Ho Chi Minh and the Revolution (1999) is a brief but excellent study and is part of the Modern War Studies series of University Press of Kansas.


 

Taylor, as does Turner, uses many interviews chiefly to preserve and attempt to understand the stories of women at war. Her sample, she acknowledges, is not a « valid » one, but it is a broader one than that of Turner. Professor Taylor’s interviews are with more women warriors who were part of the southern insurgency and fewer of her subjects fought in the north. She regards her work, therefore, a « preliminary attempt to understand the women warriors, » (p. 7) as « the tip of an iceberg » (p. 165). Taylor’s book, however, is well-grounded in her knowledge of the Vietnam Wars, and she has engaged in field research in Vietnam for more than a dozen years. Among her sources is the large and quite rich Pike Collection, now housed in Texas Tech’s Vietnam Archives, where Douglas Pike is located. Some of her eighteen pages of photographs are also from that collection.

Because women played such an important role along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Taylor’s study also frequently provides a focus on that angle. Her most thoroughly treated women warriors, however, include Nguyen Thi Dinh, one of the original « long-haired warriors, » warrior-diplomat Nguyen Thi Binh, Cu Chi guerrilla Ho Thi Bi, and warrior-physician Duong Quynh Hoa.

Taylor’s major examples are among the « long-haired warriors » in the southern revolutionary movement and opposition to the Republic of Vietnam and the U.S. Students would profit from reading just chapter four on that group of women. This subject should be of interest to students especially because both Turner and Taylor recognize the importance of emphasizing the youthfulness of Vietnam’s warriors. Recommended, therefore, is Taylor’s chapter five, « Youth at War. »

Other excellent features of Taylor’s book include her comments on poetry and her discussion of memory theory in relation to use of oral history — both her own and previously-collected interviews by our military. Students should especially note her conclusions concerning the stories told to her (p. 18). As in the case of Turner, Taylor finds Vietnamese poetry « a living testimony to the will power of the insurgents » whom we fought. (p. 15)

Read together, these two recent books will inform the reader and yet still leave some unanswered questions. Perhaps the result for students in this course will be further reading or research on women’s roles in Vietnam’s wars.

Dr. Ernest Bolt, University of Richmond

Source : University of Richmond


Hồi ký Trường Sơn – Mémoires de la Piste Ho Chi Minh en ligne

Hồi ký Trường Sơn – Mémoires vietnamiens de la Piste Ho Chi Minh.

Le site vietnamien VN Military History.net (également accessible sous son appellation vietnamienne : QuanSuVN.net) créé en 2006 rassemble une documentation en ligne tout à fait unique sur l’histoire militaire du Viêt Nam au XXe siècle. Le site se présente sous la forme d’un forum divisé en six grandes thématiques :

 

  • Informations générales (3 tribunes) :
  • Bibliothèque d’histoire militaire vietnamienne (5 tribunes)
  • Discussion sur l’histoire de la défense patriotique (6 tribunes)
  • Sang et Fleur [le soldat vietnamien hier et aujourd’hui] (4 tribunes)
  • Culture, sport et échange (5 tribunes)
  • Marché au-delà de la clôture du camp (2 tribunes)

La Bibliothèque d’histoire militaire vietnamienne se compose de 5 tribunes consacrées à la connaissance de la guerre au Viêt Nam et à l’étranger des temps anciens à aujourd’hui à travers la mise en ligne d’une documentation comprenant des des études militaires sur l’Armée populaire, des récits de batailles, des biographies, des autobiographies, des mémoires de guerre, des romans et des nouvelles, des textes étrangers traduits. La rubrique intitulée « Documents et Mémoires » est dédiée aux études militaires sur la révolution et la guerre du Viêt Nam produites par la RSVN ainsi qu’aux mémoires de guerre d’officiers nord-vietnamiens principalement.

Depuis la première mise en ligne en 2007, plus d’une centaine de ces documents sont désormais en accès libre sur la toile. Cette série de mémoires de guerre publiés en RSVN intéresse notre séminaire. Dans la première sélection ci-dessus sont rassemblés les mémoires ayant un rapport direct avec la Piste Ho Chi Minh.

On y retrouve les mémoires du général Dong Sy Nguyen, de Luu Trong Lan, celles du chirurgien Lê Cao Dai, ainsi que trois recueils de souvenirs.

L’étude de Dang Phong intitulée les « 5 pistes Ho Chi Minh » et une biographie sur Phan Trong Tue, le premier Commandant de la piste Ho Chi Minh sont également disponibles :

Un site à explorer sur lequel nous reviendrons.

FG

Jacob Van Staaveren: Interdiction in Southern Laos.
Washington DC: Center of Air Force History, 1993.
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