This morning I sat staring at a blank screen for about 10 minutes, trying to figure out
what I would write a blog about today. Then, exasperated, I came up with an idea. I
walked out to the bookcase, picked up my dictionary and without looking, opened to a
page and stuck my finger at an entry. French Indochina. Really?
So, to simplify things a little, French Indochina was basically French-controlled Vietnam
from 1887 to 1954. When I was much younger, I read George Orwell's Burmese Days, which would be the only account of that time and general region that I can relate to French Indochina.
This seems to be how our minds work. Something is said, or mentioned, and then our brain sifts through the data banks to come up with related ideas or experiences.
I enjoyed reading Burmese Days. Orwell's 1984 was probably the first 'adult' book I read as a junior high school student. I went on to read Animal Farm and Down and Out in Paris and London.
Many of the countries in South East Asia I relate to books or movies. Burma brings to mind Burmese Days and The Bridge Over the River Kwai. Cambodia brings to mind The Killing Fields. Vietnam brings to mind Apocalypse Now. Indonesia brings to mind The Year of Living Dangerously.
Part of this is because I have never been to South East Asia. The only way I can picture French Indochina is by picturing the closest images I already possess of that era and region.
The Quiet American by Graham Greene, is a book/movie that is set in French Indochina in the early 1950's. I read several of Greene's books when I was younger as well. Hmm.
This was a good exercise. It makes me realize how much I've really loved historical fiction. Not the big, sweeping James Michener tomes, but books like Burmese Days, Brighton Rock, For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, King Rat and Lord Jim. Maybe that's what I should do a little more this Christmas. Get away ... into a good novel.
Thanks, French Indochina.
(Looks like the Ayn Rand Fan Club and the Scientologists are skewing the Readers List.)