Another Quiet American
Stories of Life in Laos
A sympathetic yet irreverent glimpse into life in one of the few remaining communist nations.
You won't find Laos on many world records. It's not the smallest nation in the world and it's certainly not the largest. It's not the poorest or richest either. It is however, the most heavily bombed country in history. During the Vietnam War, the US dropped moor ordinance on Laos alone than it did during the whole of WWII. In 1975, the communists took over, and the world forgot about this landlocked nation that for centuries has been just a political pawn.
Two decades later, Laos re-opened its borders, and Brett Dakin was hired as a consultant at the government's tourism authority; a sudden leap from his Princeton classrooms to Laos' corridors of power and living rooms of the poor. Here, among others, you'll meet the author's boss, a wealthy general whose power and reputation scares his countrymen; a prince with connections to the French colonial past, now struggling to survive under the communists; an American pilot who fought during the war and never returned; and a group of rich Lao twenty-somethings who have all the money they could want, but cannot find contentment in their homeland.
This is a first-hand account of a poor country struggling with economic crisis, political instability, and a legacy of war. Above all, it is the story of a young American coming to terms with his country's role in the world at the beginning of a new century.
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This is a fascinating book, written by an intelligent but, at the time of his arrival in Laos, rather unworldly young American. Anyone who has been to Laos, and in particular Vientiane, will find it hard to put down. A friend suggested that if I read Graham Greene's 'The Quiet American' beforehand I would get more out of Dakin's book - he was right.