Red Corner: Tracking Vietnam Lovers

It’s always a great thing when travel and literature intersect. I’ve often sought out locations from books I enjoy while traveling through the cities in which they take place. After reading the amazing Master and Margarita, for example, it was a great joy to visit Patriarch’s Pond in Moscow where the beginning of the book occurs.

It was therefore with great interest that I came across an article in The New York Times in which journalist Matt Gross “retraces the narrative” of one of his favorite books; The Lover, by Marguerite Duras.

Duras was a French woman who grew up in the first half of the 20th century in Vietnam while it was under French control. As a teenager she fell in love with a wealthy Chinese businessman who was nearly twice her age. The Lover is a story of their illicit romance.

I’ve never read the book, in fact I’ve never even heard of it before, but Gross’s adventure tracking the storyline with the help of an old 1953 map book featuring original French street names is rather compelling. Surprisingly, he finds that not much has changed since the lovers first met in 1929; the romance of Indochina apparently lives on.