Memories of Saigon where I was treated to a spectacular sight: hundreds of balloons released into the sky. They gently drifted away on the breeze, as a procession of a few score priests, (including one in full Orthodox regalia) crossed the road and walked into the cathedral.
I never found out the occasion, yet it was something I had not expected to see in a Communist country. Yet this is part of the reason I will always call her Saigon, in memory of he past, although Ho Chi Minh races to the future.
The river washed away the humidity of the wet-season. A soft breeze drifted over the waters of the Mekong Delta, granting some relief from the heat. Our little wooden boat putted further and further upstream as a wall of green closed around us. Civilisation seemed far away.
Only that morning I’d been wandering the chaos of Saigon. Before dawn the bikes start their chorus of horns. Even at that hour the streets are busy, and the place simply bursts with energy. It is a city totally alive – and totally exhausting with its humidity.
Some places carry so much collective history their names evoke memories even before you visit: Casablanca, Paris, Rome. Others have been re-baptised, yet it is the old name which beckons: Saigon, St Petersburg, Constantinople. Others entice on the melody of their name alone, such as Timbuktu, or Koya-san, Japan’s Holy mountain.
Then there’s The Letter A. That’s what the sign says. The Letter A. It’s one of the reasons we bought our retreat. Continue Reading →
Under the skilful hand of Graeme Greene, the tone of The Quiet American changes with
each reading. The soft voice of Fowler contrasts with the violence of the world around him.
After dinner I sat and waited for Pyle in my room over the Catinat
So opens the novel. Not until the novel’s ending do we realise Fowler knows Pyle to be dead, although he pretends to himself Pyle may have escaped the doom Fowler himself helped arrange, if only by proxy. What exactly drives Fowler to this – for he knows what will come of Pyle should Fowler simply stand by a window, reading. Although he pretends otherwise, Fowler himself does not really understand his motives. Despair in the false foundations of Pyle’s good intentions; the hypocrisy which sees innocents die to impress the politicians of home good cause; jealously; fear of being alone; justice – all these play a role, yet even Fowler never knows the predominant emotion. What angers him most is Pyle’s blindness to the hypocrisy and faults of his beliefs, yet anger is an emotion the repressed Fowler can not express. Continue Reading →