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Triumph of the Absurd: A Reporter’s Love for the Abandoned People of Vietnam

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Almost half a century ago, a young reporter from Germany arrived in still-glamorous Saigon to cover the Vietnam War over a period of five years. In this memoir he now tells the story of how he fell in love with the Vietnamese people. He praises the beauty, elegance and feistiness of their women. He describes blood-curdling Communist atrocities and fierce combat scenes he ha Almost half a century ago, a young reporter from Germany arrived in still-glamorous Saigon to cover the Vietnam War over a period of five years. In this memoir he now tells the story of how he fell in love with the Vietnamese people. He praises the beauty, elegance and feistiness of their women. He describes blood-curdling Communist atrocities and fierce combat scenes he had witnessed. He introduces a striking array of characters: heroes, villains, statesmen and spooks, hilarious eccentrics, street urchins and orphans herding water buffalos. He shows how professional malpractice by U.S. media stars such as Walter Cronkite turned the military victory of American and South Vietnamese forces during the 1968 Tet Offensive into a political defeat. He mourns the countless innocent victims of the Communist conquest of South Vietnam, which was the grim consequence of its abandonment by the United States. Thus, he argues, the wrong side won. Finally, with eyes on Afghanistan, he poses a harrowing question: Are democratic societies with their proclivity for self-indulgence politically and psychologically equipped to win a protracted war against a totalitarian foe?


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Almost half a century ago, a young reporter from Germany arrived in still-glamorous Saigon to cover the Vietnam War over a period of five years. In this memoir he now tells the story of how he fell in love with the Vietnamese people. He praises the beauty, elegance and feistiness of their women. He describes blood-curdling Communist atrocities and fierce combat scenes he ha Almost half a century ago, a young reporter from Germany arrived in still-glamorous Saigon to cover the Vietnam War over a period of five years. In this memoir he now tells the story of how he fell in love with the Vietnamese people. He praises the beauty, elegance and feistiness of their women. He describes blood-curdling Communist atrocities and fierce combat scenes he had witnessed. He introduces a striking array of characters: heroes, villains, statesmen and spooks, hilarious eccentrics, street urchins and orphans herding water buffalos. He shows how professional malpractice by U.S. media stars such as Walter Cronkite turned the military victory of American and South Vietnamese forces during the 1968 Tet Offensive into a political defeat. He mourns the countless innocent victims of the Communist conquest of South Vietnam, which was the grim consequence of its abandonment by the United States. Thus, he argues, the wrong side won. Finally, with eyes on Afghanistan, he poses a harrowing question: Are democratic societies with their proclivity for self-indulgence politically and psychologically equipped to win a protracted war against a totalitarian foe?

30 review for Triumph of the Absurd: A Reporter’s Love for the Abandoned People of Vietnam

  1. 5 out of 5

    Phan Ba

    Đọc quyển sách này tôi cảm thấy được an ủi rất nhiều, ngay từ dòng chữ "tình yêu của một phóng viên cho dân tộc Việt Nam bị bỏ rơi" là đã cảm thấy được an ủi rồi. Hồi ký của các phóng viên, bác sĩ người Đức đã từng ở Việt Nam thời chiến không có nhiều, nhưng có thể thấy đa số họ đều nhìn người Việt Nam với ánh mắt đầy thiện cảm. Có lẽ họ cũng đã từng trải qua cái lầm than khốn khổ của một đất nước bị chiến tranh nên dễ dàng cảm thông được. Các phóng viên Mỹ chủ yếu chỉ nhìn đến người của họ, tườ Đọc quyển sách này tôi cảm thấy được an ủi rất nhiều, ngay từ dòng chữ "tình yêu của một phóng viên cho dân tộc Việt Nam bị bỏ rơi" là đã cảm thấy được an ủi rồi. Hồi ký của các phóng viên, bác sĩ người Đức đã từng ở Việt Nam thời chiến không có nhiều, nhưng có thể thấy đa số họ đều nhìn người Việt Nam với ánh mắt đầy thiện cảm. Có lẽ họ cũng đã từng trải qua cái lầm than khốn khổ của một đất nước bị chiến tranh nên dễ dàng cảm thông được. Các phóng viên Mỹ chủ yếu chỉ nhìn đến người của họ, tường thuật về các boys của họ. Những nhà báo trẻ đến Việt Nam với một vẻ cao ngạo của con người trẻ tuổi tự cho là mình mang một lý tưởng cao đẹp hơn, hay tranh đấu cho một lý tưởng cao đẹp hơn: "Ông cảm nhận mình như một nhà cách mạng, nhưng rõ ràng là không nhận ra rằng giữa cuộc sống của ông và cuộc sống của những nhà cách mạng có nhiều khác biệt hơn là giữa các đối thủ giai cấp ở Việt Nam. Ông mặc một chiếc áo thun Polo với chiếc lá phong từ quốc kỳ của Canada mà ông đã gắn một huy hiệu Hồ Chí Minh ở trên đó. Ông đối xử với những người bồi bàn như với những con lừa ngu ngốc, một biến thể Đức trẻ tuổi của những cách thức đối xử thực dân với người bản địa. Tất nhiên là ông ra vẻ kiêu căng, vì ông biết lịch sử thế giới sẽ đi về đâu…" (Trích "Nhật ký sau giải phóng"). Bởi vậy cho nên đọc quyển hồi ký của Uwe Siemon-Netto cảm thấy được an ủi rất nhiều vì chí ít thì cũng còn một vài người hiểu và thông cảm cho người dân Việt. Như tác giả viết: "Tôi không mong viết lại lịch sử của cuộc chiến Việt Nam hay thậm chí tổng kết lại toàn bộ thời gian sau gần 5 năm sống tại Đông Dương", quyển hồi ký này chỉ là một tập hợp những kỷ niệm vui buồn của một phóng viên chiến trường mang lòng yêu mến dân tộc Việt Nam. Nhưng điều đáng quý nhất, và có giá trị nhiều nhất (tất nhiên là sau tình yêu mà tác giả dành cho dân tộc Việt Nam) chính là tính trung thực của những gì do ông kể lại. Những người bạn Việt của ông đã yêu cầu ông hãy viết nên quyển sách này để "cho những thế hệ con cháu của chúng tôi." Và tôi cũng đồng ý rằng đây là một quyển sách đáng đọc về cuộc chiến đau thương đó, vì tính trung thực của nó và cũng vì tình yêu của tác giả đối với dân tộc Việt Nam. Blog của Phan Ba sẽ đăng dần từng kỳ tác phẩm tuyệt vời này của Uwe Siemon-Netto. Sang năm mới, mời các bạn cùng đọc trên blog của Phan Ba những kỷ niệm vui buồn đau thương của một ký giả chiến trường người Đức.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Goettsch

    If you are a Vietnamophile read this memoir of a German journalist who “doesn’t have any skin in the game.“ It is a rare objective telling of the events that lead to the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam even though most of the Vietnamese people preferred a Representative Republic over a Communist slaughterhouse, and despite we were winning the war.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Carleen

    If this book does not tug at your heart strings, I don't know what will. Uwe Siemon-Netto writes a beautiful memoir of his time in Vietnam as a reporter during the war. I absolutely could not place this book down! The pace is continuous and the visual descriptions keep the reader engaged and eager to learn more. There are some graphic details in the book, but war is always graphic. I would suggest a mature audience for this memoir. Uwe was nicknamed Duc, meaning German and Virtuous. The opening If this book does not tug at your heart strings, I don't know what will. Uwe Siemon-Netto writes a beautiful memoir of his time in Vietnam as a reporter during the war. I absolutely could not place this book down! The pace is continuous and the visual descriptions keep the reader engaged and eager to learn more. There are some graphic details in the book, but war is always graphic. I would suggest a mature audience for this memoir. Uwe was nicknamed Duc, meaning German and Virtuous. The opening of the memoir describes how Duc met a young orphaned boy aged twelve who was basically the caretaker of about nine other younger orphans. The boy conducts business with Duc to allow the orphans and himself to use his automobile as a hotel room during a monsoon. Seeing a picture of the vehicle, as a reader, I was completely shocked that 10 children could fit comfortably and rest; however, if you are orphaned and homeless then the Duc's automobile potentially felt like a night at The Ritz. Further in to the memoir, Uwe writes about other orphans who take care of Buffalo and are actually recruited by the Viet Nihm to be their spies. They win these children over with food, education, sweets and gifts. Some other orphans are recruited as spies for the Viet Cong also. The description of driving on the dirt roads and dodging land mines will make your heart race. Without going in to much detail, the author describes what widowed women of Vietnam do in order to make a living. It is most certainly a sad situation, in my opinion, because these women had no trade education and did what they needed to do to survive. Uwe describes some of the combat that he personally witnessed and the gruesome aftermath. There is so much detail and knowledge in this memoir! It will definitely have the reader intrigued to research and dig deeper in to the truth of the Vietnam War. I highly suggest for every American to read this and Thank a Vietnam Veteran for their services. Thank You, Uwe Siemon-Netto for putting your life in jeopardy to report this historical information and for creating your memoir. Though you classified yourself as a German reporter in this memoir, you are still a true hero in my book for the love that you shared and your courage to enter in to battle zones unarmed (at times). Thank you! I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Penny Rosier

    We as a country are doomed to keep repeating our mistakes and this book explains why. It doesn't point fingers, it doesn't root for one side or the other, but it does point out the results of the mistakes made on both sides of this conflict. As someone who was on the ground through most of it, Siemon-Netto was in a good place to show the world just what was happening to the people who were most affected by the horrible actions of the Vietnamese, the French, the Communists and the Americans. The We as a country are doomed to keep repeating our mistakes and this book explains why. It doesn't point fingers, it doesn't root for one side or the other, but it does point out the results of the mistakes made on both sides of this conflict. As someone who was on the ground through most of it, Siemon-Netto was in a good place to show the world just what was happening to the people who were most affected by the horrible actions of the Vietnamese, the French, the Communists and the Americans. The worst part of all of this were the men and women who were there, seeing what was happening and trying to get the truth out to the rest of the world and having the liberal media and the communist sympathizers twist the truth to fit their agenda and the rest of the world sitting with their heads in the sand believing everything that was spoon fed to them. 50 years later we are having the same problems in Afghanistan and Iraq because we didn't learn from the French when they lost and pulled out of Vietnam or from the lessons we should have learned from the US's time there. These are antidotes from real life during the bombings, the massacres and the atrocities that the poor people had to survive on a day to day basis while elsewhere in the world it was minimized to just numbers in a daily briefing. It's intolerable how the world neglected and abandoned this country, but even worse was how we as a nation treated our soldiers who we forced to go over there, with little to no training for little pay and no real chance of accomplishing anything. These poor soldiers are still battling those demons today and now they are being joined by the thousands of wounded veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan today. We still haven't learned how to deal with them or their plight. It's hard to read this book and not want to rail against the system that allows this absurdity to happen. It is a wonderful look into how people continued to live while all around them their country and the world around them was going crazy. I received a copy of this book for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Duc 3rd Edition: Triumph of the Absurd: A reporter's love for the abandoned people of Vietnam by Uwe Siemon-Netto is was disappointing for me. There was a political bias towards the right but the author did recognize that atrocities had been committed in the Vietnam war by both sides. And he tried to have balanced point of view. There are few places that he quoted someone third hand and I was not satisfied about the accuracy of the statement. Like the many "Dear John" letters received by America Duc 3rd Edition: Triumph of the Absurd: A reporter's love for the abandoned people of Vietnam by Uwe Siemon-Netto is was disappointing for me. There was a political bias towards the right but the author did recognize that atrocities had been committed in the Vietnam war by both sides. And he tried to have balanced point of view. There are few places that he quoted someone third hand and I was not satisfied about the accuracy of the statement. Like the many "Dear John" letters received by American soldiers that turned out to be cruel and punishing. But my biggest negative criticism is that I was wanting more depth. Listening at home to the constant reporting of the war, I agree with him that there was a strong lack of coverage of the war crimes committed by the North. I would have liked to have him probe the question of why those crimes did not make the news. He did hit on that several times but did not go into any reason why. He did say that the crimes committed by the North were much worse but there were not that much detail. He did tell about the horrible Tet massacre of 5,800 civilians but omits other major ones. I would have preferred less coverage of his social life and more on the war itself. This is the report of just one reporter, a German reporter. I would like to read more points of view. I did enjoy reading about his friend, the other Duc, a young boy of the leader of a group of homeless children who bargained for shelter for his group in the author’s car. I was impressed that he taught the other children to read newspapers in Chinese, Vietnamese, English and French. It is too bad that the author lost contact with him. I received this Advance Reading copy from the publisher as a win from FirstReads but that in no way influenced my thoughts or feelings in this review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Susan Bissell

    I found this a truly poignant and moving memoir by Uwe. I was a child when the Vietnam War was happening. I remember seeing the sad and tragic stories on the nightly news. I also had a cousin who served in Vietnam, and to this day he won't talk of his tour of duty. Now I can see why when I read this book. I have always wondered how much us U.S. citizens are being told what is honestly going on in this world, and specifically on main stream news because of what makes ""good copy". Reading all abo I found this a truly poignant and moving memoir by Uwe. I was a child when the Vietnam War was happening. I remember seeing the sad and tragic stories on the nightly news. I also had a cousin who served in Vietnam, and to this day he won't talk of his tour of duty. Now I can see why when I read this book. I have always wondered how much us U.S. citizens are being told what is honestly going on in this world, and specifically on main stream news because of what makes ""good copy". Reading all about the atrocities that happened in Vietnam, Saigon and Hue, I wondered how Uwe could sleep at night without waking up screaming from terrible nightmares, I know I would. Seeing village leaders and their whole family horrifically tortured and killed because they sided with the Saigon government, young boys as young as 15 years old being recruited by the North Vietnamese to be basically used as cannon fodder for their higher agenda, the list can go on and on, how did Uwe handle all of what a war can throw at a reporter and stay sane? I'm glad I read his memoir now I, too, now have better understanding of the Vietnamese people. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David C.faulkner

    A LOOK AT A REPORTER LIFE AS IT WAS CHANGE BY HIS REPORTING OF THE VIETNAM WAR. This is one of the most intriguing book that I have read about the VIETNAM WAR..The AUTHOR lays out the truth about how the was reported and miss reported.He shows the SUFFERING OF THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE AND DIED in this war..This SUFFERING still go on today with the loss of FREEDOM FOR A NATION. THANK YOU UWE SIEMON-NETTO

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Yoder

    This was really an educational book on the Vietnam War. It was difficult to put down because I was learning about the war from a different point of view. The main stream media all told the same story but this reporter peaked behind the scenes and gave us a look from inside the country. His caring about the people made for a good read. I would highly recommend this book. This would make a great movie. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    this book is a must read. well written and interesting. the author reviews the difference seen in history between 'the accepted history' and the facts on the ground. the difference is often based on the views of the writers of the events or history. this is ,of course normal, but is frequently forgotten or ignored. having more intellectual curiosity will often reveal new 'facts'. wonderful work.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cassy

    An interesting look into the Vietnam War from the perspective of a reporter that 'didn't have a dog in the fight'.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Debi Winrich

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Becker

  13. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  14. 4 out of 5

    James Murphy

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kercy Carriere

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jonna

  17. 4 out of 5

    Niggelson

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anthonii

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jann

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lucas Whittington

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

  22. 5 out of 5

    Robert Wayson

  23. 4 out of 5

    Warren Nuth

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jefff

  25. 4 out of 5

    thanh nguyen

  26. 5 out of 5

    Felice

  27. 5 out of 5

    Feli-Huong

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  29. 5 out of 5

    Love

    I read this book while traveling in Vietnam, it offers an interesting perspective on the vietnam war from a west german war reporter.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Betty Yoder

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