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New Left Review 73, January-February 2012

pierre brocheux


Can you tell us something about your background?

I was born in Vietnam. My mother was Vietnamese, but her father was already a French citizen. I found his ‘naturalization’ certificate, as they called it in those days, number 18, dated 1906—which is to say, he was the eighteenth Vietnamese to acquire French citizenship, although he never went to France. He worked for a French company in Vietnam, keeping the books. In spite of what many people think, to acquire French nationality it was not necessary to be a collaborator. If one could speak and write the language correctly, live in the French style, and educate one’s children in French—those were the conditions. My grandfather satisfied these requirements. He drank Bordeaux, but would eat Vietnamese food. You must remember that Vietnam was divided into three parts: Annam, Tonkin and Cochinchina. My mother’s family were from Cochinchina—the first part of Vietnam to be conquered by the French. It was a very open society, the most commercial region. It was already a frontier zone for the Vietnamese: they had only arrived there in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Before them, there were the Cambodians; also many Chinese living in the Mekong Delta, who had been driven out by the Manchu dynasty.

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Pierre Brocheux, ‘Reflections on Vietnam’, NLR 73: £3

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