nandadevi: Although set 1300 years apart, van Gulik has done for T'ang Dynasty China what Cotterill has done for Laos of the 1990's, distilled the essence of a time and place in a vastly entertaining series of novels of detection.
This book is dedicated to the Hmong and other hill tribespeople of Laos who fought reluctantly on both sides of the political battlefield. I am sad for the betrayals they've suffered in their lives. I hope I haven't represented them inaccurately in this book, and I thank all those who helped with my research. I apologize for any liberties I may have taken to give my book more cheer and hope than real life has afforded the Hmong. Apologies also to missionaries Dr. G. Lynwood Barney and William A. Smalley for using my own transcription and trashing their fine Hmong phonetic system—but it gave me a headache.
As there were no longer any records, the Hmong could not even tell when they actually misplaced their history.
“Did you think it would end up like this? When you were fighting the French? Did you think the alternative to colonialism would be so . . . so claustrophobic? Did you think we’d be looking over our shoulders all the time worrying we might be doing or saying something to offend the Party?” “We’re in transition, Dtui. Things will get better. At least we Lao are in control of our own destiny now.” “If you don’t count the Vietnamese ‘advisers.’”
My biggest problem as a practicing cynic, however, is that I’m aligned, against my will and better judgment, to another world. I’m connected to a world of spirits and souls and gods and no matter how hard I try to disprove this world, I know it exists. I don’t know how it’s possible, but, damn it, it’s there.
Although the Lao wouldn’t have their own new year for another three months, the West was calling this 1978 and hailing it as the dawning of the age of computers. Half a million were already in use around the world and predictions were that this number might double by the end of the century. Like the news of Charlie Chaplin’s death and the decision by Sweden to ban aerosol cans, the revelation passed Vientiane by without even staring in the window.
Dr. Siri Paiboun, the national coroner of Laos, escapes injury or even death when a booby-trapped corpse turns up in the morgue while he is away at a Communist party meeting, only to be kidnapped by a group of Hmong women who want the shaman with whom Paiboun shares a body to exorcise their headman's demon-possessed daughter.… (more)