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Between 1970 and 1975 Jon Swain, the English journalist portrayed in David Puttnam's film, "The Killing Fields", lived in the lands of the Mekong river. This is his account of those years, and the way in which the tumultuous events affected his perceptions of life and death as Europe never could. He also describes the beauty of the Mekong landscape - the villages along its banks, surrounded by mangoes, bananas and coconuts, and the exquisite women, the odours of opium, and the region's other face - that of violence and corruption.
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'A romantic, evocative and touching book, the story of a young man's coming-of-age in the shocking but desperately alluring war zones of Cambodia and Vietnam' Sunday Telegraph

About the Author

Jon Swain left Britain as a teenager. After a brief stint with the French Foreign Legion he became a journalist in Paris, but soon ended up in Vietnam and Cambodia. In five years as a young war reporter Swain lived moments of intensity and passion such as he had never known. He learnt something of life and death in Cambodia and Vietnam that he could never have perceived in Europe. He saw Indo-China in all its intoxicating beauty and saw, too, the violence and corruption of war, and was sickened by it. Motivated by a sense of close involvement with the Cambodian people he went back into Phnom Penh just before the fall of the city to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975. He was captured and was going to be executed. His life was saved by Dith Pran, the New York Times interpreter, a story told by the film The Killing Fields. In Indo-China Swain formed a passionate love affair with a French-Vietnamese girl. The demands of a war correspondent ran roughshod over his personal life and the relationship ended. This book is one reporter's attempt to make peace with a tumultuous past, to come to terms with his memories of fear, pain, and death, and to say adieu to the Indo-China he loved and the way of life that has gone for ever.

Reviews

British journalist Swain will be familiar to many as one of the Western newsmen who worked so tirelessly to save their Cambodian colleague Dith Pran from the Khmer Rouge in the early days of the Communist victory in Cambodia. Presently a reporter for the Sunday Times, Swain spent five years in Cambodia and South Vietnam as a war correspondent. Those years were a time of American retreat, Khmer Rouge and North Vietnamese victory, and seemingly unendurable suffering for the civilians of both countries caught in between the several armies. Written as a journalist's memoir, this is not a well-researched, definitive historical account of the Communist victory but an emotional, impressionistic view of the tragic experiences of people like Dith Pran who find themselves forced to deal with events far beyond their ability to control them. Already published in England, Swain's sympathetic portrayal of the collapse of Cambodia and South Vietnam is suitable for comprehensive Vietnam War collections.‘John R. Vallely, Siena Coll. Lib., Loudonville, N.Y.

From 1970 to 1975, Swain, an award-winning British journalist, worked as a war correspondent in South Vietnam and Cambodia. In this arresting memoir, he recounts the atmosphere in Saigon (today's Ho Chi Minh City) as the U.S. began to withdraw after the Paris Peace Accords, as well as the eventual takeover of the city by North Vietnamese forces. He also includes harrowing descriptions of the "boat people" who fled Vietnam and were raped and often killed by Thai pirates. The adventurous author, who trained for the French Foreign Legion, is obviously smitten with the land and people of Southeast Asia‘he conducted a long love affair with a French-Vietnamese woman‘and he effectively conveys his personal horror at the 1975 siege of Cambodia's Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge. During the appalling violence, his life was saved by interpreter Dith Pran, whose story was depicted in the film The Killing Fields, and Swain later took refuge in the French embassy with U.S. journalist Sydney Schanberg. Although the author details his unusual experiences in compelling and dramatic terms, the nostalgic romanticism with which he regards the opium dens and prostitution of former Indochina is sometimes excessive. (Oct.)

"A remarkable heart-breaking book" -- Gavin Young "Jon Swain's powerful and moving book goes further than anything else I have read towards explaining the appeal of Indo-China and its tragic conflicts... A brilliant and unsettling examination of the age-old bonds between death, beauty, violence and the imagination, which came together in Vietnam and nowhere else" -- J. G. Ballard Sunday Times "An absolutely riveting book... Haunting, compulsive and beautifully written, River of Time looks set to become a classic" -- Alexander Frater Observer "His book is a damning indictment and a triumphant witness. Brief, wrenching, it is surely the freshest and most sensitive account of those times" -- Michael Binyon The Times "A sombre, magnificent book" Daily Mail

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