A fair-minded, consistently interesting attempt to unpack the “boxes within boxes in An’s life” and a fascinating...




The morally ambiguous life of a respected journalist for Time who turned out to be a spy for the North Vietnamese.

Viet Minh soldier Pham Xuan An was inducted into the Communist Party in 1953. The party subsequently funded his journalism education at California’s Orange Coast College, where he became fluent in English and thoroughly versed in all things American. Returning to Vietnam in 1959, working for Reuters and Time for more than 20 years as correspondent, translator and “all purpose go-to guy,” he earned the esteem of brilliant reporters, including Robert Shaplen of the New Yorker, Frank McCullough and Robert Sam Anson from Time and New York Times correspondents Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam. All the while, from this ideal cover, he was funneling valuable information and analysis to Hanoi. After the war, Vietnam made him a People’s Army Hero for his many intelligence coups, which had enabled Hanoi to understand American tactics and battle plans. Berman (Political Science/Univ. of California-Davis; No Peace, No Honor, 2001, etc.) traveled to Saigon to get this story and appears to have had almost complete access to An, his family, friends and files. The author attributes An’s remarkable clandestine success to his perfect impersonation of a reporter: There’s no evidence to suggest he engaged in disinformation or biased the coverage of the newsmen he aided. Though he never knowingly hurt any of his friends, An’s spying doubtlessly resulted in many American deaths. Yet An’s American circle expresses almost no feelings of outrage or betrayal, but rather echoes his own view that he fought not against the Americans, but rather for his own country as a nationalist patriot.

A fair-minded, consistently interesting attempt to unpack the “boxes within boxes in An’s life” and a fascinating contribution to our understanding of America’s defeat in Vietnam.

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-088838-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Smithsonian/Collins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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