John Spragens

Listed in: Asian Studies · Southeast Asian Studies · International History · Asian History · Memoir




The Red Earth · A Vietnamese Memoir of Life on a Colonial Rubber Plantation
By Binh Tu Tran · Edited by David G. Marr · Translation by John Spragens

Phu Rieng was one of many French rubber plantations in colonial Vietnam; Tran Tu Binh was one of 17,606 laborers brought to work there in 1927, and his memoir is a straightforward, emotionally searing account of how one Vietnamese youth became involved in revolutionary politics. The connection between this early experience and later activities of the author becomes clear as we learn that Tran Tu Binh survived imprisonment on Con Son island to help engineer the general uprising in Hanoi in 1945.

“Tran Tu Binh’s recollection of his experience of labor service in the ‘rubber villages’ of the Michelin company was first published in 1965 in Hanoi under the title Phu Riéng Do [Red Phu Rieng]. His description of the maltreatment, brutal punishment, lack of adequate food, housing, and medical care that Vietnamese workers had to endure in the ‘hell on earth,’ as plantations were called, corroborates what we know of the terrible forms of exploitation the representatives of the rubber companies practiced.”

The Journal of Asian Studies