Une si jolie petite guerre: Saigon 1961-63 – Reviews on diaCRITICS

[ndlr] Signalement de deux recensions du roman graphique de Marcelino Truong. Première recension par Jade Hidle et seconde par Ly Lan Dill (en deux parties), publiées sur diaCRITICS.

Marcelino Truong's identification photo, age four © 2013 Diacritics
Marcelino Truong’s identification photo, age four © 2013 Diacritics

Jade Hidle Reviews Marcelino Truong’s Une Si Jolie Petite Guerre

Truong does well to show the ambivalent relations between the U.S. and Việt Nam in these pivotal years in the countries’ interconnected histories. While the two nations both bear spirits of decolonial revolution, the election of John F. Kennedy further polarized the two countries as Cold War adversaries—the U.S. cast as a self-proclaimed paragon of democratic liberty and Việt Nam as a Communist threat to that freedom. Truong situates his family as one of innumerable who were caught in this contracting relationship.

The Truong family in particular occupies a tenuous position in this shifting space of the U.S. in 1961. They are, to put it simply, too American to be French, and too French to be Vietnamese. Truong illustrates how his family’s occupation of this liminal position is charged with racial and political danger. What is compelling is how Truong focalizes these large-scale conflicts through the lens of his childhood self. For instance, within the span of just the first few panels of the book, the idyllic American setting—represented by the White House, “Cherry pie, corner-shop et Coca-cola” (9)—is always already punctuated by conflict.

Truong shows how while engaging in grade school play in the U.S. he and his mixed-race siblings are racialized as Mexican and Native American, as well as the pan-Asian Communist targeted with the refrain of “Gook!” (16, 20-1). Regardless of the imposed racial identity, Truong and his family are cast into the role of enemy and thus subjected to violence, even if in backyard games of “playing war” with white neighbor boys, pantomiming national conflicts within seemingly safe domestic space. (The high school boy whose arm I drove a pen into for calling my mother a “gook” can certainly testify to the real violence underlying mere “play.” That’s right, when you, as the awesome Bao Phi would say, “bring out the Vietnamese in me,” I am a bonafide, pen-wielding badass.)

Lire la suite :  diaCritics, 08/04/2013.

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Marcelino Truong’s “Une Si Jolie Petite Guerre” — Part One by Ly Lan Dill

diaCRITICS is thrilled to announce the publication of Une si jolie petite guerre—Saigon 1961-63 (Such a nice little warSaigon 1961-63), the spectacular new graphic novel by Marcelino Truong. It opens with a family portrait on a suburban lawn under a cherry tree. 1961 – Trương Bửu Khánh, a diplomat for the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), has been appointed to the embassy in Washington, D.C., accompanied by his French wife, Yvette, and their three children, Mireille, Dominique, and Marcelino. The family is called back to Sài Gòn where he becomes head of Vietnam Press and Ngô Đình Diệm’s personal interpreter. Newly elected John F. Kennedy’s distant war intensifies and the family implodes as the mother’s bipolar episodes worsen.

In 1963, with the Buddhist revolt in Huế and Thích Quảng Đức’s immolation, the situation nationally and privately becomes unbearable. Marcelino’s father is named counselor to the embassy in London and the Truong family leaves Sài Gòn. They would watch the assassinations of Diệm and Kennedy from London.

The novel focuses on the three years of the Vietnamese-American war under Kennedy. The 50 years since speed by in a succession of panels of iconic scenes in an epilogue that finishes with Marcelino adult with his parents on the beach in St Malo. Through trilingual dialogue and crisp narrative, Marcelino Truong tells a story the French readership has yet to hear, that of the Republic of Vietnam (1955-75). In the forthcoming part 2, Ly Lan Dill meets with Marcelino Truong and discusses his groundbreaking graphic novel.

Lire la suite : diaCritics, 17/12/2012.

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Marcelino Truong’s “Une Si Jolie Petite Guerre” — Part Two by Ly Lan Dill

I met Marcelino Truong in Belleville over a bowl of phở. The ubiquitous scene of phở with its exotic scent of cinnamon and ginger is the cultural marker of an “ethnic” Vietnamese work in the landscape of American literature on diasporas and refugees. A hallmark of Vietnamese-American autobiography, the bowl of soup is often the fulcrum between the personal story set inside and yet apart from the larger national story. The irony of interviewing one of the very few francophone authors of a Vietnamese autobiography over a bowl of phở was perceptible.

The bowls arrived as we talked of his trilingual childhood in D.C., Sài Gòn, London, of heads of state, diplomats, war, blood, and art. His conversation ranged from his personal work as an illustrator to the TPHCM based Dogma collection of Vietnamese communist war propaganda art. Marcelino talked about his family, his sisters and brother, his parents, his mother. “Some people have said that I was harsh with my mother. This was not my intention. When we were younger, we didn’t have a name for what was going on [her bipolar condition]. We tiptoed around and still things would get out of control. It’s better to say things straight, to call things by their name. It’s easier to bear a situation when you know there was a reason.”

Lire la suite : diaCritics, 20/12/2012.



Marcelino Truong was born in 1957 in the Philippines to a Vietnamese father and French mother. He grew up in Washington, D.C., Saigon, and London, where Marcelino attended the French Lycée. Marcelino moved to Paris for his studies and earned degrees in law at Sciences Po and English literature at the Sorbonne, before deciding to become an artist at the late age of 25. He has published in various print media, authored books for all ages, and exhibited his paintings in galleries throughout Europe. The majority of Marcelino’s work deals with Asia, especially Viet Nam.