HANOI by Mary McCarthy


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Mary McCarthy went to North Vietnam (for two-and-a-half weeks in March) to report, and, like Harrison Salisbury, to reveal and verify; she saw the manhole shelters in the sidewalk (though no one acknowledged using them, preferring communal facilities), a remote Catholic hamlet in ruins, victims of zigzag pellets from cluster bombs; she saw everywhere determination to endure the shelters, the prominence given to growth statistics, the dispersal of schools, hospitals, plants; she saw moreover a return to first principles (folk medicine, bamboo); she saw, in substance, what she expected to see. Except in herself; the scrupulous observer was working at her own salvation, trying to assuage her discomfiture with the war but in assuming the role of witness, and implicitly of judge, she had found a further discomfiture--the North Vietnamese value formulation, both guileless and jargon-ridden. (A fascinating interview with Prime Minister Pham Ban Dong substantiates the determination to preserve Vietnamese traditions and the traditions of socialism.) Miss McCarthy has, as always, a sharp eye for the tangible, an astute awareness of the nuances of speech, a wide field of historic referral; she has also, here, no comfort for those who take comfort in certitudes.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1968
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World