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Ho Chi Minh: From Revolutionary to Icon

Pierre Brocheux, Author, Claire Duiker, Translator . Cambridge Univ. $35 (265p) ISBN 978-0-521-85062-9

The founder of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam emerges as an appealing but still somewhat enigmatic figure in this impressionistic biography. French historian Brocheux (The Mekong Delta ) notes the complexity of Ho (1890–1969): a sometimes unorthodox revolutionary who combined Leninist theory with Confucian moralism; a cosmopolitan—he spent much of his youth in Europe—who admired French culture and a nationalist who battled French imperialism; and a man of immense personal charm, whom smitten acquaintances likened to Charlie Chaplin and a warmhearted Mr. Chips. Brocheux himself seems rather taken with his subject, and regales readers with stories of Uncle Ho's modesty and humility, his fitness regimen, his homespun wisdom and prison poetry, his conciliatory disposition and his brimming solicitude for peasants, subordinates, political opponents and enemy POWs. The author struggles to reconcile this humane sage with the grim Stalinism of the regime he founded, ultimately finding Ho a tragic figure "crushed under... an implacable system that he had helped put in place through his indisputable charisma." Unfortunately, perhaps because of the inaccessibility of documentary sources, Brocheux's account is too brief and haphazard—the entire Vietnam War is disposed of in a few pages—to shed much light on this central conundrum of Ho's life. Photos. (Mar. 1)

Reviewed on: 12/18/2006
Release date: 03/01/2007
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Paperback - 265 pages - 978-1-107-62226-5
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