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Shadows and Wind: A View of Modern Vietnam [Paperback]

by Robert Templer
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1, 1999 0140285970 978-0140285970
In Shadows and Wind, Robert Templer paints a fascinating and fresh picture of a country usually viewed with hazy nostalgia or deep suspicion. Here is Hanoi, an increasingly tense and troubled city approaching its millennium but uncertain of its direction. Here are people emerging from a long wilderness of malnutrition, discovering a new lifestyle of leisure and luxury. And everywhere are the anomalies that burst the bubble of optimism: a vastly expensive luxury hotel sitting empty in an unknown town six hours from an international airport; museums crammed with fake exhibits. And there remains the one-party Communist state, still wrapped in secrecy and corruption, and making for an uneasy bedfellow with the rapacious capitalism it now encourages. Drawing on hundreds of interviews in Vietnam and years of research, Robert Templer has produced the first in-depth examination of the problems facing modern Vietnam. Shadows and Wind is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the Vietnam that now has emerged from a century of conflict with both foreign powers and with itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"I am too young to have seen the Vietnam War on television or to have read about it at the time," British journalist Templer announces at the beginning of this penetrating and lyrical history, confessing that his own impressions of Vietnam had been formed by American books and movies. But upon arriving there in 1994 for a three-year stint as a reporter for Agence France-Presse, Templer found that more than half of the population had been born after American troops pulled out of Saigon, and that the reality of life in modern Vietnam was much more complex than he had realized. The lingering images of French colonial Indochine and the American experience in 'Nam oversimplify and obscure the struggles of a communist nation in the midst of economic reformADoi Moi, or "renovation"A after half a century of armed conflict. Not to mention the "Rip Van Winkle popular culture" that has awakened with an enormous appetite, but uneasy stomach, for Western stimulus. Dismissing as "drive-by reporting" such celebrated books on his topic as Frances FitzGerald's Fire in the Lake and William Prochnau's Once Upon a Distant War, Templer has built his own vision of Vietnam through hundreds of interviews and careful analysis of Vietnamese journalism and literature. A picture of a diverse culture emerges in a nation struggling to understand its relationship with China, adjust to feast rather than famine and balance its communist past with an increasingly capitalist present. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Templer, who covered Vietnam for Agence France-Presse in the mid-1990s, begins with the observation that, like the vast majority of Vietnamese, he was too young to have seen the war on TV or have read about it at the time, but the past hangs over all present-day problems. "Imagining Vietnam" is a key topic for a series of chapters showing how Confucian Chinese, French colonizers, American Cold Warriors, and Chinese "Socialist brothers" all misunderstood the nature of the country they tried to change and on which they all left their mark. Through many vivid interviews and brief, crisp essays on economics, politics, culture, and society, Templer reveals the contemporary problems of a government mired in Socialist rhetoric but looking forward to reform and global participation while many common people seek their own ways. His tone is both critical and admiring. Highly recommended for public as well as specialist libraries.ACharles Hayford, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (September 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140285970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140285970
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book shows the real Vietnam April 30, 2001
By A Customer
I think anyone who has spent any time in Vietnam will recognise so much in this book. I went back to what I used to think of as my homeland but now I no longer feel at home there and this book made me understand why. This beautiful cultured country is laboring under a system that still tries to crush people rather than help them. This book sometimes paints a gloomy picture of what the communist party has done but it also captures the spirit of the Vietnamese in the chapters on food, arts and religion.
Those reviewers who have attacked this book seem to be people who have never been to Vietnam and are no position to know whether the book is accurate or not. Their aggressive attacks are motivated more by ignorance and spite than any knowledge of the country. One strangely complains that Mr. Templer says he knows everything because he is lived in the country three years but this is from a person who has clearly never been there and knows nothing about the country. This books is detailed and a little dense but no other book available today comes close to giving a sense of life in Vietnam and an understanding of the culture and people and government. Read this if you really want to know about the country.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book May 25, 2000
Since I am a Vietnamese, I am speaking from a Vietnamese perspective. Unless you can read Vietnamese, this is the best book that you can find written about Vietnam in recent years. I find that Mr. Templer's knowledge about Vietnamese literature, politics, culture is extraordinary. He quotes a lot of Vietnamese poems and literature that are unknown to a regular Vietnamese unless he/she is highly educated. His stories reflect the truth of what is happening in Vietnam right now unlike the info that are published by the Vietnamese government. When I read those books, I feel like they are talking about life in another planet. So if you want accurate info on current Vietnamese life, then you should read Robert Templer's book.
An excellent book from any point of view. I highly recommend it.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vietnam book for a new generation April 24, 2001
By A Customer
Shadows and Wind is among the best books about my homeland that I've ever read. It really brings to life the country and the issues it faces and it is written with a depth of knowledge that I am surprised a non-Vietnamese could learn. This is one of the most important books about the country written in recent years and the first that views it through the eyes of Vietnamese rather than through the view of Americans and people who fought in the war. Parts of this book made me cry when I understood how much people in Vietnam still have to endure. This is a book for the post-War Vietnam, nto for those who only see the country through the war or those who still view it through the ignorant lens of Hollywood and American war books.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Corruption, communism and creeping capitalism April 4, 2000
Robert Templer, the author, is a young British journalist who was
raised in Asia. In 1994 he spent three years as a correspondent for
the Agence France-Presse and this book, published in 1998, is a well
researched account of a the creeping capitalism, corrupt government,
and historical struggles of the Vietnamese people.
More than half of
Vietnam's population today were born after the war and are more
interested in consumerism than communism. But in spite of their
smuggled videos and make-believe motor bikes (which are all chrome and
glitz and have tiny motors), they live in a culture where corruption
is a way of life, the judicial system is almost non-existent, and
writers are persecuted and forbidden to portray Vietnam without a rosy
The extent of the corruption is everywhere. If you are sick
you have to pay extra to get the most basic medical care, even if you
have government insurance. If you want your children to pass their
exams, you have to pay teachers for "private tuition". If
you want to move, change jobs or leave the country, you have to pay
someone. The police can arbitrarily rob street vendors or require
payoffs from anyone at whim. And, as foreign investors have found,
unlike other Asian countries, the pay-offs do not necessarily obtain
the results desired.
There's a history of famine in Vietnam and
memories of starvation. There are also food practices that Westerners
find abhorrent. Yes. The Vietnamese do eat dogs and cats and
restaurants get big bucks for serving meat that is on the endangered
species list.
Read more ›
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly objective perspective on modern day Vietnam October 27, 1999
By A Customer
I am preparing a trip to Vietnam and I have been reading several publications on Vietnam and the Vietnamese people. I have to say that this book is so far the most revealing and objective account of Vietnam, it's recent history, and the trials and joys of it's people that I have read. It's incredibly refreshing to read something that so objectively discusses the many influences Vietnamese culture has endured in the past 50 years. Hopefully many will find that this book finally allows them to see the Vietnamese and their history from a perspective outside the American invasion.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Mr Templer's view of Vietnam at the end of the 20th Century
I found this both thought provoking and frustrating. Mr Templer has a bias which is anti Marxist which he never quite clearly outlines as the framework of this book. Read more
Published 6 months ago by "Belgo Geordie"
5.0 out of 5 stars Indochine and Nam
The author, Robert Templer, tells a much different story of Vietnam. Being born in England in 1966, Templer is too young to remember the Vietnam War. Read more
Published on January 14, 2011 by S. Bell
5.0 out of 5 stars Helpful context: A dated, but fascinating overview of Vietnam up to...
Templer's Shadow and Wind is a bit dated, but fascinating view of Vietnam up to 10 years ago when it was beginning to shed the shackles of 30+ years of disastrous socialism and... Read more
Published on November 18, 2008 by T. Agoston
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and Fascinating
There are so very many books about Vietnam, I was hesitant when I picked this up, and I expected to be disappointed. Read more
Published on August 21, 2008 by My Pen Name
4.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary Look At Vietnam
While in Vietnam I picked up an interesting book about contemporary Vietnam called Shadows and Wind by Robert Templer. Read more
Published on April 11, 2005 by Patrick Mc Coy
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Two Great books on Vietnam!
I read this book because it was recommended in the back of my favorite book on Vietnam: The Bamboo Chest: An Adventure in Healing the Trauma of War

After reading this... Read more
Published on September 7, 2004 by Nguyen H.
5.0 out of 5 stars Get the facts behind the headlines!
This book and memoir "The Bamboo Chest: An Adventure in Healing the Trauma of War" by Frederick "Cork Graham are the best books on Vietnam that my reading club and I have read in... Read more
Published on September 7, 2004 by Sally MacDonald
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book
A truly wonderful book. Templer writes with beautiful flowing prose, expressing complex ideas and thoughts in an enjoyable and easy to understand manner. Read more
Published on April 10, 2004 by J. Jacobs
1.0 out of 5 stars A windbag errant
Persuasive only to the unknowledgeable reader this is journalism at its slippery worst. Close examination of the references shows many inaccuracies which make even a junior scholar... Read more
Published on October 26, 2003 by "cvvt"
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Western, too detailed, and too boring
While this book does exactly what it says, gives "a view of modern Vietnam", and does so with an impressive swath of parts of society, I wasn't satisfied with the "view" that it... Read more
Published on March 17, 2003
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