The ‘monument of complexity’ that was Réunion communist leader Paul Vergès

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“What is exemplary about the Vietnamese people is its modesty and its pragmatism, a people that counts only on its own strength,” said Paul Vergès in 1977, interviewed for Chris Marker’s documentary Grin Without a Cat (Le Fond de l’air est rouge was the French title) on the rise and fall of leftist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The Vietnam War had not long ended and Vergès, a Réunion island politician who was born in 1925 in Siam, as Thailand was then called, was inscribed in the history of the anti-colonial struggle.

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