A masterful, balanced biography of the charismatic Communist leader.
To produce this rich, layered life of a man who has achieved mythic status among the Vietnamese, Duiker (History/Penn State) draws on his years in the Foreign Service (one of his postings was to the US Embassy in Saigon during the Vietnam War) and manifests the persistence required to discover the atoms of fact that form the molecules of truth. This was not easy. As the author acknowledges, Ho, though “one of the most influential political figures of the twentieth century,” was also “one of the most mysterious.” After a brief description of victorious North Vietnamese tanks rolling into Saigon in 1975, Duiker goes back in time, first to 1945 (when Ho announced the independence of Vietnam), then to 1890 (when the future leader was born as Nguyen Sinh Cung). Ho’s father was a scholar of modest means who nonetheless achieved one of the highest academic degrees, and Ho grew up appreciating the importance of education—he would argue always that revolutionaries must learn the theories underlying their actions. Duiker follows Ho’s career as a sailor (he the US, though “none of the details . . . can be corroborated”), a student in France, a journalist (he wrote countless articles for leftist publications, often employing a pseudonym), “a well-known fixture in Moscow” (where he went to study Communist theory), a brilliant politician, and a skillful military strategist. Ho tirelessly traveled the world fomenting revolution and enlisting support for his nationalist aims, but during the Vietnam War others emerged to lead while he retreated into his role as “Uncle Ho,” the “spiritual father” and “soul of the Vietnamese revolution.” He died six years before the war ended.
Required reading for students of the 20th century—and for all who want to understand how a man can come to epitomize a cause and sire a nation. (32 pp. b&w photos, not seen)