On September 2 1945 Ho Chi Minh revealed himself to the crowd at Ba Dinh square in Ha Noi and read his Declaration of Independence.  He died on the same date in 1969.

That year the Communists concealed the unhappy coincidence from their people at war but now it is the national holiday.  Outside Viet Nam we may celebrate something else.

On this date in 1964 Ron Kovic enlisted at New York’s induction center at Whitehall Street.  But Ron’s day is rather the Fourth of July.

Let September 2 stand instead for the rentree, the happy and confident time of year in France when everyone gets back from vacation.  France is the country run by Paris, a university town.

Paris is the home of the study of Viet Nam.  It is the attic of intellectuals who have cared about the place: missionaries, merchants, administrators, scientists and wave after wave of agents and exiles.

Ten years ago France gave me a Chateaubriand fellowship to search Paris for the different booksellers, librarians and teachers of Vietnamese literature.  I found what I have to say.

Happy hunting to the classes at Langues O’ and Paris VII and the Sorbonne, to the seminars at the Ecole francaise d’Extreme Orient, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, to the patrons of the municipal library in the 13th and the mission one in the 17th, to the Buddhist and Orientalist, Stalinist and Trotskyist and anti-communist and who cares booksellers, to the city and its nation where Viet Nam means many things to different people who all know what they are talking about.

Click on any photo to view album of fieldwork 2000-1.

2 thoughts on “Rentree”

  1. You could definitely see your skills in the paintings you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. All the time go after your heart.

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