Picks and Pans Review: Ten Years After: Vietnam Today

updated 11/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Tim Page

Compared with the photographs Page took in Vietnam during the war, the pictures in this book are, perhaps inevitably, low-key. A few of the shots, taken in 1985, are on the boring side of low-key, including one that looks like a press release portrait of Marshal Vo Nguyen Giap, North Vietnam's military strategist, and two other officials. Still, it is often absorbing to see a Vietnam free of major war for the first time in more than 40 years. Neither the photographs and text nor the introduction by William Shawcross, former correspondent of the London Times, suggests that the Vietnamese are on any road to paradise. Many pictures include war debris that, Page theorizes, the Vietnamese keep around in the interests of future tourism; traveling the country for a year, Page found few scenes that reflect real optimism. Shawcross describes the current regime as "a cruel dictatorship"; Page says that in the southern provinces, "millions of old-regime troops are the nearest thing to state slaves." The only brightness appears in the vivid greens of the countryside plant life, which has struggled for so long to overcome such cruel mistreatment by the higher forms of life. (Knopf, paper, $18.95)

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