But Nguyen Chi Thien lived to tell the story of his torturers confronting him with a book of poems smuggled out by the British and published abroad. Prove you wrote these, they said.
He recited his oeuvre as the guards checked the text. He had composed thousands of lines in his head over fifteen years’ imprisonment as a poet in the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam.
After defeating Saigon they had let him out to make room for new prisoners. He was expected to die without the bother of an execution.
Instead he hid in an attic in Ha Noi to write down his life’s work in time to sneak the manuscript into the French embassy during their 14 July party. But he couldn’t get in.