He was born in 1890, the son of an anti-French mandarin, but little has been known about his life up to the 1941 formation of the Viet Minh. Lacouture fleshes it out with admirable finesse, drawing critically on a range of French and Vietnamese sources, from the 1917-23 Paris years, when Ho became a Communist preoccupied with Vietnamese independence rather than doctrinal polemics, to the struggle against the French, Japanese and Chinese, and the Presidency in 1945. Lacouture stresses Ho's concessions as a military victor seeking peaceful political settlement (despite party left-wingers and popular hopes). Here the biographical focus introduces not only the pragmatic nationalist, collaborating with the bourgeoisie and mistrusting Peking, but also the revered, ascetic Uncle, the astute party leader, and the urbane negotiator with a disarming sense of humor and humility. Lacouture is charmed but not disarmed. . . . His historical knowledge, detached insight into Communist theory and practice, and his sense of character make a fine biography.