Phạm Ngọc Ln



A Vietnamese Eurasian Life Spanning Colonialism,
Independence and Communism





About the Author:

Pham Ngoc Ln was born in 1944 in Saigon. After graduating from Saigon University's Faculty of Pharmacy, he served as a pharmacist in the South Vietnamese Army from 1969 to 1973. Then he became assistant professor at the same faculty from 1973 to 1980, interrupted by a detention in Communist reeducation camps. In 1980, he left Vietnam with his wife and their two children and resettled in France. He is now retired and lives in a suburb of Toulouse, a southern city of France.




Foreword :


Unknown Father is the English version of the book De Pre Inconnu by the same author, and published by L'Harmattan in 2015, with a second edition in 2016. Like the Vietnamese version Cha V Danh, also published by L'Harmattan in 2019, this English version is not a literal translation of the French version, but a rewriting by the author himself for an Englishspeaking audience. ''I was spellbound both by the content and by the writing style. This book looks deeply into the lives of Vietnamese as well as into the soul of Vietnam as a country. A unique mix of biography, culture, history, and politics, it is important reading for a variety of American and of other Englishspeaking audiences. It would be very interesting for younger ethnic Vietnamese descended from the diaspora, especially as the Fall of Saigon nears its 50th anniversary.''


John R. Bondanella


Product details
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Editions L'Harmattan (April 8, 2022)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 544 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 2140255992
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-2140255991
Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.85 pounds
Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.1 x 1.23 x 9.45 inches ht.


Books are now available at bookstores and can also be ordered at :

L'Harmattan and Amazon




Readers's reviews:


- M.Thai:  A must have book for English readers, especially for younger generations.
Full of historical facts about life in Vietnam during the 50s to 80s.
It brings back my memories as a college student and a soldier during the last days of 1975.
A great book.

- Trần Việt Hưng: He is doing the work of a historian, not the way historians normally do.

What would the feelings of a 17-year-old boy be like when the bus he was traveling on got stopped by armed guerrillas, softly speaking as much as they could but with deadly weapons in their hands that could be fired off at any time?

I know how he felt.
I know what happened to him as I have read his story.
Several times.
Over and over.

And yet, when author Phạm Ngọc Ln sent me a copy of his newly published book Unknown Father, the English version of De Pre Inconnu (French version, published in 2015) and Cha V Danh (Vietnamese version, published in 2019), I found myself completely in awe after I read through it.

Because he did not simply translate his two previous books into this version, he retold the story, the story of the boy, the boy that he was. In an absolutely different writing style, I would say.

It is the story of a Eurasian man desperately in search of his unknown father for almost his entire life, a search nested in a context having so many volatilities, an actual background of our country Vietnam in the second half of the 20th century.

Telling that story is not such an easy job to do, given the circumstances, and the author is doing the work of a historian, whether or not he acknowledges it, not the way historians normally do.

Enriched by his knowledge and expertise, he took the witness-bearing role and gave an account of the history and its true events.

He gave it a breath of spirit.
Cecilia Dart-Thornton once said, and I quote:

'If you're looking for a book thats not been influenced by 21st-century popular culture and thats guaranteed to be a good read because its stood the test of time, you can't go wrong with the classics.'

Unknown Father, though first published in 2022, is one of those and by all means, is not only a good read, but also a lived experience, of the author's, of mine, and no doubt, of many others'.


- HVH :  Main themes of the 20th century through a life of a citizen of the world
It' s quite a complex story, spanning more than a century and dealing with the main themes of the 20th century, migration, colonialism, cold war and Vietnam war, communism, refugees, and collapse of the Communist world : migration of a French widow to the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in 1902, of a Vietnamese refugee family to France in 1980; Second World War in France which brought a young French man to a small island in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam where he will meet a Vietnamese woman from more than a thousand kilometers north ; the first part (1946-1954) of the Vietnam war which brought almost a million Vietnamese to migrate to the south; the second "Vietnam War" (1956-1975) under the perspective of a Vietnamese who lived through it in his homeland through turbulent but exciting times (Vietnam as "a country, not a war"), where we can find youth, love, romance and academic success along with war atrocities and despair; the boat people, their resettlement; discussion of identities, of ethnicities by a person who is the product of several worlds. Then happy ending in the new century where a very long, detailed detective story full of suspense comes to a surprisingly simple but inspiriting conclusion.

I can't help quoting T.S. Eliot:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Great reading for Vietnamese from the diaspora who need a guided, detailed and learned tour of their time lost ("temps perdu") in a Vietnam now lost to tourism and "renovation"; for the second generation of Vietnamese to learn about their "roots"; for anybody interested in Vietnam; and for all those who, at the sight of the current Ukraine tragedy, are reflecting on war and the human condition and who are trying to keep alive a certain sense of optimism about the future of humankind.

- gph108 : a living proof of resilience and excellence
The author, a french-vietnamese orphan whose father- a French reservist officer, an HEC graduate who was cowardly executed by the Japanese in Lang Son a few months before their defeat in WWII in 1945. Author was a pharmacist, a guitarist, an IT expert, a historian, a journalist, a writer, a singer, a college educator, a former pharmacist captain of the ARVN, a prisoner in so called re-education camp following the 1975 fall of south Viet Nam. The book was a masterpiece of Viet Nam history, a living and honest witness of the Viet Nam war, a well researched and accurate compilation of references of facts and customs. At the end, his life long wish of tracing his roots and hard work, and in search of his military heroic MIA father were finally rewarded with surprisingly positive findings. Proof of his identity was accidentally found. He was no longer a naturalized French citizen, but a bonafide repatriated French son as adjudicated by a French judge. Many thanks to PNLn, I learned so much after reading both the french and the vietnamese versions of your life. Your books are priceless.


- P Q. Jenkins : If you havent got the book. You may want to get one. This is a man whos determined and succeeded in everything he did in his life . How do I know ? He is my brother in law who raised 2 independent and successful children. He is an example of you can be or do anything in life if you put your mind into it. This is an inspirational story that helps people whos struggling in life. Dont give up.



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