Jean Vanmai’s Chân Đăng The Tonkinese of Caledonia in the colonial era is a rare insider’s account of the experience of Chân Đăng, the Vietnamese indentured workers who were brought from Tonkin to work in the New Caledonian nickel mines in the 1930s and 1940s. Narrated from the unique perspective of a descendant of Chân Đăng, it offers a deep understanding of how Vietnamese migration, shaped by French colonialism and the indenture system, led to the implantation of the Vietnamese community in New Caledonia.
The translation into English of this important historical novel was long overdue. Only accessible until now to French speakers, this exceptional account of the personal and emotional complexities of the Chân Đăng’s experience is now available to a wider audience, reaching not only the Anglophone Vietnamese diaspora, but a global readership with an interest in the Asia-Pacific. Significantly, the restitution of the diacritical marks to Vietnamese names in the English text lends greater authenticity to the story.
The critical introduction by Tess Do and Kathryn Lay-Chenchabi contextualises the book for the Anglophone reader. The inclusion of many photographs and documents from a wealth of sources – the author’s family albums, the National Archives of both New Caledonia and New Zealand, as well as photographs from the private community collections – all contribute to bringing new life to this fascinating piece of history.Book Details