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Jun 30, 2013
WALKING THE TIGHTROPE By Jan Smark Nilsson Terebra Publishing, 2012 Reviewed by Peter Cole-Adams This is a remarkable and engaging memoir of a strange, though far from peaceful, period of interregnum in the violent 20th Century history of Vietnam – after the defeat of the former French colonists at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and before Vietnam became a blood-soaked proxy battlegound in the global struggle between capitalism and Marxism. The young Jan Smark arrived in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1961 with her husband, Peter, the newly-appointed bureau chief for the AAP-Reuters news agency. Her book provides fascinating anecdotes and snapshots of life in a city that lived by its wits, and with conflicting loyalties and corruption. In the surrounding countryside, and even at times within Saigon itself, war was raging between the Viet Cong and the forces of doomed President Ngo Dinh Diem. Wisely sidestepping the relatively cosy isolation of the expatriate community, the... More > 22-year-old found part-time jobs with a multi-lingual Saigon radio station and a local newspaper and ventured far out of Saigon, including a hair-raising road trip to Norodom Sihanouk’s Cambodia. The book is also the story of an extraordinary, lasting friendship between this resourceful Australian woman and two Vietnamese men, one of whom. she learned years later, had been a serving officer in the Vietnamese communist party even as he was working assiduously for Western journalists. It is an astonishing tale. (Peter Cole-Adams is a former foreign correspondent for The Age, Melbourne, who has reported on conflicts in Europe, the Middle East and Central and South America.)< Less
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