In the Crossfire
Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary
Ngo Van 1995 296p 6 x 9
Although the Vietnam War is still well known, few people in the english-speaking world are aware of the decades of struggles against the French colonial regime that preceded it, many of which had no connection with the Stalinists (Ho Chi Minh’s Communist Party). The Stalinists were ultimately victorious, but only because they systematically destroyed all the other oppositional currents. This book is the story of those other movements and revolts, caught in the crossfire between the French and the Stalinists, told by one of the few survivors.
Ngo Van was born in a peasant village in Vietnam in 1912. As a young man he moved to Saigon and became involved in underground struggles against the French colonial regime. If you’re familiar with the waves of strikes, protests, sabotage and riots that rocked spain in the years leading up to the spanish civil war, In the Crossfire draws a similar picture of pre-World War II Vietnam. In the aftermath of World War II, as most of his comrades were being murdered by Ho Chi Minh’s Communist Party, Van escaped to France, where he became a factory worker, a painter, and a historical scholar. Following his retirement in 1978, he devoted the remainder of his life to researching and writing a series of books on the history of modern Vietnam. He died in 2005 at the age of 92.
Ngo Van’s In the Crossfire is one of those rare books like Voline’s The Unknown Revolution or Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia that almost single handedly unveils moments of hidden history — sublime moments when people break through the bounds of the ‘possible’ and strive to create a life worthy of their deepest dreams and aspirations.
In the Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary is an English translation of Ngo Van’s fascinating and gripping autobiography, originally published in two volumes in France in 2000 and 2005. Co-edited by Van’s close friend and collaborator, Hélène Fleury, and acclaimed situationist author and translator Ken Knabb, the book includes seventy color and black and white illustrations, reproducing many of Van’s paintings as well as numerous documentary photographs.