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A Dragon Apparent: Travels in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam Paperback – December 19, 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
The truth about this book is almost precisely the opposite of what another reviewer has said. On the surface it is a mere travelogue, occasionally exciting, usually interesting, sometimes dull. Only towards the middle does one realise that one is in the company of a man of wit, imagination, insight, philosophy, humanity, and a keen passion to get to the heart of things coupled with an uncanny capacity to succeed in doing so. A visit to Ankor Wat produces a meditation on history and the nature of politics which could stand proudly on a shelf with Ruskin. His visits to primitive tribes are as revealing as those of Levi-Strauss and more readable. In a few deft incisive sentences he can lay bare the technique of the skilled propagandist or reveal the true motives behind an economic arrangment.Read more ›
After a glancing view of the "universal religion," the Cao-Dai, with its wild pastiche of saints that include Joan of Arc, Victor Hugo and Confucius, Lewis moves to the Central Highlands of what would become South Vietnam, and for almost half the book reports on the colonial arrangements involving the aboriginal peoples the French called the Montangards, the Moi, the Rhades, and the Jarai. It was these people, in particular, who would have their way of life completely destroyed in the French, and later, the American wars. Lewis scathingly described the American missionaries, living quite well, trying to collect a "few souls," and utterly indifferent to the physical life of their would-be converts. As he said: "I waited in vain for the quotation beginning, `Render unto Caesar'...." His portrait of French colonial officials is more nuanced. He reports that they were often sympathetic, and even helpful to the "natives," yet when push came to shove, as it does so often from the rapacious planter's need for ever more (slave) labor for their plantations, they invariably knuckled under. Of personal interest to me was the unfavorable description of the French owner of the tea plantation near Pleiku.Read more ›
Lewis writes clean, crisp, one might say "British" prose, which is easily digested -- so much so, in fact, that it takes a while to realize that the book is actually quite boring. His trip is somewhat of a litany of banal travel clichés: descriptions of bad roads, worse bus drivers, decrepit vehicles, inscrutable natives, "exotic" food, and so forth. Despite his evident interest in various small rural tribes, he doesn't seem to know very much about them, and thus, isn't able to tell the reader much of anything useful about them either. The most interesting parts of the book are his interactions with other Westerners, especially the missionaries, plantation lords, and various French civil and military administrators who are eager to show him around.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I found this book both informative and entertaining. It raised questions in my mind about those countries in the period between WWII and the Viet Nam war which I intend to... Read morePublished 14 days ago by Amazon Customer
Norman Lewis was a most brilliant writer with the eye of a an observer who sees what trials people and their land goes through.Published on April 13, 2014 by Shahla Ahy Hanska
I'm planning a trip to the area. It was very interesting and informative to me. I highly recommend this book to other travelers.Published on March 21, 2014 by Jane Gerard
I wish I had read this book before I went to Vietnam not immediately after. it explained so many things I saw in North Vietnam still today. Read morePublished on February 22, 2013 by Bonnie E