Rondeau from Bach, enjoy!
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Robert Olen Butler served in Vietnam as Military Intelligence and as a translator during the war the in the sixties and part of the seventies. Fluent in Vietnamese, he said his favorite time was walking the back streets of Saigon and crouching in the doorways, getting to know a people that he considers to be some of the most warm-hearted and open people he has ever known.
A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain is a collection of short stories each from a different person's point of view. Some of the narrators are men, some are women, some are old, others are young. Some stories are narrated by successful business men, others by house wives, one by a prostitute and one by a man we are not sure is crazy or not. What they all have in common is that they are Vietnamese and live in the Lake Charles district of Louisiana.
Most of these narrators have lived during the Vietnam war, but a couple of the protagonists are young people who were born and raised in America.
This book won a Pullitzer prize and while I felt at times the writing was a bit stilted, the voices of the narrators were strong and convincing.
I suppose some would ask "how an American man can speak with the voice of people from another country?". I don't know. I'm not Vietnamese and maybe his voice is not absolutely authentic, but that is beside the point. To me it was as if someone went somewhere and had an adventure and told me about it. They can only tell me what they saw and how they perceived things. Maybe if I went on the same adventure, I would see things differently; but that doesn't matter. We all love to hear other peoples' stories and I am glad that Butler wrote his down because not only has he opened a portal to another country and people, he has revealed also himself and certainly his great interest, and even love for the Vietnamese people.
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