Friday, 30 March 2012


I've just returned from a trip to the Far East and this moment was captured in Hanoi, at the Temple of Literature. I love this photo - mainly because I didn't know it was being taken - but it reminds me of the sense of awe I felt as I looked around.

It was a very beautiful and serene place. The Vietnamese really value education. They also wish people to show respect in their sacred pagodas, which is why I had to wrap a shawl around me as a makeshift ankle-length skirt.
With me is our guide, Jena (I've probably spelt that wrong) who regaled us with stories of how buffalo still pull carts in his village and how much he enjoys cobra blood, when drunk with alcohol. Mmm!
Afterwards, we went to see the embalmed body of Ho Chi Min, which was quite an experience. When I'm not so jet-lagged, I'll tell you about it.

Have you ever been to Vietnam, or is there a similarly unforgettable place that you've visited?


  1. I’ve always thought that Vietnam is a must-see place.
    It’s amazing that such a wonderful place was a famous scenario for horrors of war but it kept its undamaged beauty at the same time.
    I’d like to go there after I get the rank as a warrant officer which will happen next November 16th 2012.
    Vietnam makes me think of movies as Michael Cimino’s “The deer hunter” where desperation and horror are the leading roles but also of a book called “The Lover” written by the controversial French writer Marguerite Duras – which awarded the 1984 Prix Goncourt.
    I remember that I first read it when I was 14 and I fell in love with it.
    It’s about the autobiographical love affair about the 15 year old writer and a 27, handsome and wealthy Chinese man, son of a Chinese magnate.
    It’s set in 1929, against the backdrop of French colonial Vietnam where she lived with her drunk, depressed mother, one beloved brother and another, violent hated one.
    Their relationship lasts a year but later he’s forced – by his father - to marry a wealthy Chinese girl.
    Duras moves to France where she degrees in Political Science and Law and she become a writer, as she had always wanted. She married, divorced, was a member of French Resistance, had only one son, Jean, which she called “ma lumière” – her life was fascinating but damaged by a beloved/hated enemy: alcohol. She was a woman who loved with all her heart and all her soul and I bet she never forgot her first lover. Her apartment in Paris was surrounded by books on the desk, on the floor, everywhere. She always wrote what she wanted without shame. Her genius led her to death, as all the great characters of the world.
    I’ve read all her books and I strongly recommend them.
    In “The Lover” you can almost smell the air, the colours and the moods of 1929’s Vietnam.
    If someone asked me who I’d like to meet among dead authors I’d say Duras (well, after Shakespeare maybe).
    The Frech director Jean Jacques Annaud made a movie about the book – strongly hated by Duras.
    She used to say – with her usual sarcastic way to do - that the actress playing her was too beautiful.
    I think she was rather sad, moved to tears to watch her ancient love story portrayed on the screen.
    It was heartbreaking and… too much.
    The movie is faithful, too faithful, even for words.
    Here’s the last scene of it – when Duras moves to France and she remembers everything.
    The voice narrating her own words is by the French actress Jeanne Moreau, one of Duras's best friends.
    I think it’s one of the most beautiful scenes in the history of cinema.

  2. Oh wow, lovely picture, Sharon. Can't wait to hear more about this exotic trip - did you have to eat anything weird? I assume you didn't indulge in the snake bood beer?! xx

  3. Wow, Michela - have never heard of this book but now feel I must read it. Thanks for painting such an intriguing picture of it. (Have you ever thought of giving up your career in the military to work in PR?!).

    And yes, Rachel - we ate some VERY weird stuff.....

  4. Sharon, thanks for the compliment.
    The truth is - not much about PR - I'm pretty accostumed to reviewing/analysing in depth a book (and authors' life).
    My degree address is literary-philological and I used to review plots and books all the time.
    When I attended high school my teacher of English literature fell in love with my review of "Wuthering Heights" - telling that it was more similar to a University composition.
    During last year at university, as a senior member, I oversaw a group of twenty freshmen/women which made a composition about Anton Cechov's famous pièce "Three sisters".
    We went through author's life and career to understand the reasons behind his writing, his characters and plots.
    So, just professional bias... :)
    It's pretty weird that I'm going to graduate in Economics next year...the opposite field! But I've always thought that an open mind must know art and science together.

    About Duras's "The Lover" - you won't regret the reading.
    A very short novel but deeply intense and compelling.
    I also recommend "Writing" by the same author.