HO CHI MINH AND HIS VIETNAM: A Personal Memoir by Jean Sainteny


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Sainteny, former Commissaire for French lndochina, is reputed to be the one Occidental who knew Ho Chi Minh well, at times under friendly circumstances but more often as colonial administrator negotiating with an opponent on the heels of war. Sainteny is aware of the inherent limitations of their relationship; he speaks ""only of the man I knew,"" shunning pretentious revelations, but at the same time adding very little to the previously unearthed fragments of Ho's career. The familiar story of the mess boy, cook, sailor, scholar, Comintern agent, and tireless organizer of the Indochinese Communist movement is adumbrated in snatches, along with an abridged account of the history of Vietnamese resistance. More revealing are the close-ups of Ho during the 1945-46 negotiations: he strains to arrive at a popular front political settlement, smoking away per usual, often requesting time to consult his advisor, ""My Lord Emperor"" Bao Dai, while outside General Leclerc's troops clash with the Viet Minh. In Paris Sainteny bears witness to Ho's last-ditch conciliatory effort: ""Don't let me leave France like this. Arm me against those who are trying to outstrip me; you'll have no reason to regret it."" At Toulons, negotiations having collapsed, Sainteny sends off a nearly discredited Ho who is booed by French Communists as a traitor and considered by many Vietnamese to have betrayed the liberation struggle. This does serve to underline Ho's essential moderation; unfortunately, if understandably, little is said about French intentions and machinations. Those interested in a broader sweep will consult Lacouture's Ho Chi Minh (1968).

Pub Date: March 1st, 1972
Publisher: Regnery