Introduction: Indochina as Fiction
lOne of the first coherent attempts at exploring French writings on Indochina was
undertaken by Jean Ajalbert in
His anthology, however, which includes
works written by a wide variety of French authors, lacks an overarching critical
framework. The first and only full-length literary study of Indochina, to my knowl-
edge, was written in the 1930s by Louis Malleret in his classic thematic survey,
indochinois dans la littlrature jranfaise depuis
Shorter studies also worth
mentioning include Clive Christie's informative essay, 'The Quiet American and the
Ugly American: Western Literary Perspectives on Indo-China in a Decade of Transi-
tion 1950-1960." The work on Indochina of a new generation of French scholars
must also be consulted. See, in particular, the work of Gilles de Gantes.
In the introduction to his translation of de Certeau's
fEcriture de l'histoire,
Conley points out that the English translation fails to convey the complexity of the
French usage (xx).
A number of studies have been devoted to this subject. Consult Gervereau; Lewis,
Paret, and Pareto
Although these examples among many others suggest the complexity of the
historical conjuncture of the time, they fail to articulate the intensity of the violent
force exerted on the colonized world by the West. For an in-depth discussion of the
ravages caused by the colonizing powers, one could point to the seminal work of
Edward Said for a model study of the complicit role scientists and scholars played in
deploying Western knowledge in the service of colonization. Few studies, however,
have been devoted to investigating the ideology of medical discourse and institutions
such as the Institut Pasteur de Saigon, as well as probing the complicit role of doctors
and pharmacists in the colonization of Indochina (see Bernard; Pluchon).
In his memoirs, Andre Thirion writes that he conceived the whole exposition as
being in three main parts: Sadoul was put in charge of its proselitizing aspect, where
statistics, engravings, and photographs of the history of the French colonial empire,
of its conquest, exploitation, and
mise en valeur
of foreign territories were showcased.
The second part, ideological in nature, which Thirion kept for himself, dealt with
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