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Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam [Format Kindle]

Andrew X. Pham

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Descriptions du produit

Amazon.com

A great memoirist can burnish even an ordinary childhood into something bright--see, for instance, Annie Dillard's An American Childhood. So what about a really good writer with access to a dramatic and little-documented story? This is the case with Catfish and Mandala, Vietnamese American Andrew X. Pham's captivating first book, which delves fearlessly into questions of home, family, and identity. The son of Vietnamese parents who suffered terribly during the Vietnam War and brought their family to America when he was 10, Pham, on the cusp of his 30s, defied his parents' conservative hopes for him and his engineering career by becoming a poorly paid freelance writer. After the suicide of his sister, he set off on an even riskier path to travel some of the world on his bicycle. In the grueling, enlightening year that followed, he pedaled through Mexico, the American West Coast, Japan, and finally his far-off first land, Vietnam.

The story, with some of a mandala's repeated symbolic motifs, works on several levels at once. It is an exploration into the meaning of home, a descriptive travelogue, and an intimate look at the Vietnamese immigrant experience. There are beautifully illuminated flashbacks to the experience of fleeing Vietnam and to an earlier, more innocent childhood. While Pham's stern father, a survivor of Vietcong death camps, regrets that Pham has not been a respectful Vietnamese son, he also reveals that he wishes he himself had been more "American" for his kids, that he had "taken [them] camping." Catfish and Mandala is a book of double-edged truths, and it would make a fascinating study even in less able hands. In those of the adventurous, unsentimental Pham, it is an irresistible story. --Maria Dolan

From Publishers Weekly

In narrating his search for his roots, Vietnamese-American and first-time author Pham alternates between two story lines. The first, which begins in war-torn Vietnam, chronicles the author's hair-raising escape to the U.S. as an adolescent in 1977 and his family's subsequent and somewhat troubled life in California. The second recounts his return to Vietnam almost two decades later as an Americanized but culturally confused young man. Uncertain if his trip is a "pilgrimage or a farce," Pham pedals his bike the length of his native country, all the while confronting the guilt he feels as a successful Viet-kieu (Vietnamese expatriate) and as a survivor of his older sister Chai, whose isolation in America and eventual suicide he did little to prevent. Flipping between the two story lines, Pham elucidates his main dilemma: he's an outsider in both America and VietnamAin the former for being Vietnamese, and the latter for being Viet-kieu. Aside from a weakness for hyphenated compounds like "people-thick" and "passion-rich," Pham's prose is fluid and fast, navigating deftly through time and space. Wonderful passages describe the magical qualities of catfish stew, the gruesome preparation of "gaping fish" (a fish is seared briefly in oil with its head sticking out, but is supposedly still alive when served), the furious flow of traffic in Ho Chi Minh City and his exasperating confrontations with gangsters, drunken soldiers and corrupt bureaucrats. In writing a sensitive, revealing book about cultural identity, Pham also succeeds in creating an exciting adventure story. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 852 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 353 pages
  • Editeur : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1 avril 2010)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B004L62EU8
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°200.495 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Amazon.com: 4.4 étoiles sur 5  180 commentaires
65 internautes sur 68 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The must read for the 25th Anniv of the Fall of Saigon 25 avril 2000
Par Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
The 25th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon was approaching, as was a conference at NYC's Asia Society on Vietnamese American authors, so I purchased this book for a friend. But before I gave the book away, I started to read the preface. And I was as hooked as a net caught in a propeller. I gorged myself on this book's language. It was so poetic, I wanted to deconstruct the sentences to see how Pham built them. How this book did not win a National Book Award I can not fathom. (although it was honored with the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize). As was said in the reviews above and below, Pham's book is an adventure book as worthy as any Outside Magazine story, a memoir, and an extended essay on cultural identity, immigration, guilt, and family dynamics. The metaphor filled, flowing chapters alternate between his current bike trip, the immigrant experience, and his family's flight from Vietnam two decades ago. The book is honest, humorous (as in when he relates his Dilbert-like experiences working as an aerospace engineer in California, or when his brother's boyfriend offers him a supermarket of armaments for road biking protection), psychologically complex (the duty of the first son, the guilt over a suicide), frightening (when relating the experiences of his father in a post-War Vietnamese prison, their escape as boat-people, finding lodging at the home of what may be an escaped mental patient), gutsy (finding a bike path from Narita Airport), sensual, exhilarating, sad, profound, and subtle (can you save every beggar, can you marry every poor Vietnamese woman). Simply a must read.
32 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Great, great book. 4 janvier 2000
Par Max Benjamin - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
I traveled through Vietnam in 1998 and I found Andrew Pham's vivid descriptions of contemporary Vietnam in 'Catfish and Mandala' piercingly accurate. In the pantheon of "Vietnam" literature this book comes from a voice and perspective that has been grossly under-represented. Andrew Pham makes the most of this opportunity by writing a carefully crafted, moving and important work. Between the covers the reader is transported in time and place, from the author's childhood hometown of Phan Viet in the 1970's, to the low socio-economic Northern California suburbs of the 1980's, to the chaos and disarray of modern-day Saigon. It should be made clear that this is not a book about the Vietnam War; in one sense it has everything to do with the war (without it he would not be here today), in another it has nothing to do with it. The war is the 800 pound elephant in the living room, the event that until now has defined the relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam for most Americans. But Pham makes it clear that most Vietnamese have long since tried to move on, and this allows him to tackle the more universal and timeless issues of family, relationships, friendship, powerlessness, frustration, empowerment, injustice, corruption, redemption. He does this with remarkable success. I could not put this book down and would recommend it to anyone.
37 internautes sur 39 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 I believe this book is destined to be an American Classic. 10 novembre 1999
Par Terry L. Young - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
It has been a long, long time since I have been so moved by the work of a new American author. "Catfish and Mandala, A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam", by Andrew X Pham, is a book that invites one along on a trek through the minds, hearts, and souls of two nations. As a veteran of the Vietnam War I tagged along willing with Mr. Pham----at first. I soon found myself being pulled deeper into the past, a past that long ago laid waste to my youth and my spirit. Having read this book, I view the world in another light. I view the Vietnamese and American people with an understanding that has escaped me for so many years. To call "Catfish and Mandala" a travelogue is to call Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" and Kerouac's "On the Road" travel books. "Catfish and Mandala" is truly great literature. I only wish it had been written sooner.
25 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A truly outstanding book 12 juin 2000
Par saigonese - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Catfish and Mandala is the best book about Vietnam I have read in decades. It is humorous, witty, moving, but also very disturbing. Andrew Pham talks about his family's escape from Vietnam, his father's time spent in re-education camp, his family in the U.S., his sister's suicide, his brothers' homosexuality. But best of all is his bicycle travelogue in Vietnam with little money. It's a truly refreshing book, completely different from the tales that I heard from my Vietnamese friends who came back and travelled in air-conditioned cars. And even though I want to believe them, somehow their stories contradict with the experiences I had while living there. Andrew's book is a rare gem that explores the stories behind that are not readily available to the wide-eyed tourists in sanitized packaged tours. In Saigon, Andrew broke down sobbing after a beggar who resembled his old girlfriend pleaded for the leftover food. While travelling to visit his father's old prison, he was left with packages of smuggled tobacco while the police was searching the bus and demanding bribery. And in Vung Tau, he befriended a beautiful young girl who worked in one of those "embracing beer" halls. She was begging him to take her to the U.S. Even if he didn't love her, he could pretend to marry her so he could take her out. "My children, grandchildren, great grandchildren will thank you everyday for the rest of their lives," she said. When he refused, she just left and the next morning he saw her hand-in-hand with a white tourist who might be easier to be persuaded. The trip continued as he came back to his hometown Phan Thiet and then went up North to Ha Noi and beyond. In each city that he visited, there are tales of deception, duplicity, trickeries by the locals in an attempt to get the money out of the tourists' pockets. But there are also tales of Vietnam's beauty and the enduring lives of the Vietnamese people. A local policeman knocked on his room's door at night pretending that Andrew needed a better place to sleep because he was a Viet-Kieu, but his true intention was to get some money out of this poor guy. A prostitute knocked on his door at night offering her services without knowing that he was deadly exhausted. Perhaps a local police was nearby. If a customer refused, she would stripped herself naked and scream for help. The local police would run in and arrest the tourist accusing him of raping or having sex with a prostitute. Either way, it is a loosing proposition since the tourist had to pay $50-$300 U.S. fine. In Hue, Andrew thought that he had found a true friend who took him around in his broken cyclo. His friend's heart-wrenching stories of having to support a wife and three kids moved Andrew deeply that he gave his friend a lot more money than what was needed. But later he found out that his friend was not really married, but he just told the stories to get Andrew's money. In Hoi An, we see Andrew with a couple of Western tourists. A German man sat sadly alone in a pile of rubble. He was shocked to find out that he had paid $100 U.S. to rent a car to see the Cham ruins, but at the last moment, he was told that the car had broken down and he was not going to get his money back. And Cham's ruins are nothing than a pile of rubble. "Cham's ruins in Thailand are a thousand times more beautiful than this and I didn't have to pay $100 to see it," lamented the man. Next to him was an Italian young woman who broke down crying after her camera was confiscated by the guards. She couldn't take modern Vietnam anymore. I am particularly moved by this chapter and while reading it, I keep wondering about the future of Vietnam's tourism. "Is this how we treat the foreigners who come in our country yearning to learn more about our culture and history?" Near the end of his book, we meet Andrew's friend Calvin -- a professional guide tour in Vietnam. Calvin's appearance is impeccable from the outside. He earns a lot more money than the average Vietnamese. He is the epitome of success. But while he was drunk, the readers get a peek inside Calvin's heart that is very disturbing. It is for sure that he would never reveal this thought to any of the tourists or Viet-Kieu whom he takes around in Vietnam. He told Andrew through the cloud of alcohol. "Sometimes I feel like a pimp," he said. He continued, "The tourists wanted me to take them to the poor part of Saigon, so I took them there; they flinched at our poverty..." Calvin also offered us an opportunity to see how the local Vietnamese see the Viet-Kieu -- a truly honest and down-to-earth viewpoint even though it is also very disturbing. After reading Calvin's thoughts, I am not too sure if it is a good idea for a Vietnamese to go back there. The only really minor points in Andrew's book that need some clarifications is the part when he mentions about Hanoi's quarters and he says that it is the legacy from the French era. Somehow I always think that these specialized quarters of Hanoi predated the French. Regarding Uncle Ho, perhaps Andrew didn't know that he actually had multiple wives in many continents and he wasn't single because he was patriotic as described by the Communist propaganda. From the other books that I have read, he even stole his best friend's wife. Catfish and Mandala has won numerous praises from the New York Times, Elle, the Chicago Tribune, etc. His book is an extraordinary book in any way. It deserves 5 stars. It's a must-read for any foreign tourists who want to go to Vietnam, the Viet-Kieu who contemplate of going back there, and anyone else who wants to learn more about modern Vietnam. Two Thumbs Up!
18 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Books Like This Come Along Once in a Decade 30 juin 2000
Par Cloud O'Connor - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
CATFISH AND MANDALA won the 1999 Kiriyama Literary Prize. The book is also a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a finalist for the PEN U.S. West Award for Creative Nonfiction, and The Oregonian Regional Book of the Year.
I wonder why Pham didn't get the Pulitzer or the National Book Award. If Robert Olen Butler got the Pulitzer for his so-so collection of short stories about Vietnamese refugees, Pham ought to be an obvious winner for a travel memoir that truly breaks the mold. Technically, Pham has discovered new grounds while poetically dealing with some profound issues about humanity, forgiveness and redemption.
What I respect most about this memoir is that the author does not capitalize on "personal tragedies", but instead he uses the opportunity to search deeply for answers, truth and compassion. Yet, it certainly is no melodrama. In fact, the book reads like a literary thiller and a cross-cultural mystery (I finished the book in two sittings). It is the sort of book that will remain with its readers for decades if not longer.
Despite all their good intentions, the raving newspaper reviews and the marketing efforts miss the point about CATFISH. It isn't just a book about travel or a memoir about a troubled refugee family. It is about one man's desire (any man's or woman's desire) and the choices he makes for his life. It is about the courage of letting go, of forgiveness, of starting over, of facing death, of accepting consequences. It isn't simply an issue of "being caught between two world." That is a cliche. Who among us have not been trapped between two places, two forces?
Like the best literature, CATFISH AND MANDALA challenges us to read between the lines, to question our own reflections, and to hope.
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