Jon Swain - writer and foreign correspondent

River of Time
“Jon Swain’s powerful and moving book goes further than anything else I have read towards explaining the appeal of Indochina and its tragic conflicts. Part love letter to the land he so adores, part self-analysis of the most unsentimental kind, River of Time is both an eyewitness account of painful and often sickening events, and an almost poetic meditation on the mysterious appeal of war and death ... His book is unsparingly honest, a brilliant and unsettling examination of the age-old bonds between death, beauty, violence, and the imagination, which came together in Vietnam as nowhere else.” - J. G. Ballard, Sunday Times

[A] splendid memoir... a tale, at once tragic and beautiful, of love and loss, of coming of age and of witnessing the end of Indochina as the West had known it for more than a century.” - LA Times
IMG-Jon Vietnam

“An absolutely riveting book ... haunting, compulsive, and beautifully written, River of Time looks set to become a classic.” - Alexander Frater, Observer

“A romantic, evocative and touching book, the story of a young man’s coming-of-age in the shocking but desperately alluring war zones of Cambodia and Vietnam.” - Sunday Telegraph

Jon in Vietnam, 1972

Jon’s memoir includes a description of his arrival in Phnom Penh.

“I explored the friendly little city - a perfect fusion of French and Asian cultures - feeling I had arrived in a world of new dimensions where all my dreams could come true. All the accumulated restraints of western life could be abandoned in the primitive simplicity and beauty of Indo-China. I’d had a reasonable amount of luck - loving parents, a good education in Britain - but I was determined to make my way as a foreign correspondent without the string-pulling that marked many such careers. Here I would be able to say my goodbyes to the gaucheries of my youthful self and be free for the first time in my life.

I arrived with a young man’s conceptions about the glory of war and believing firmly in the chivalrous ideal. I had read widely; I had grown up on Buchan, Conrad, Forester, Henty, Wren, but also on books about World War Two and France’s own wars in Indo-China. The need to confront a life-threatening situation was strong. I itched to know, albeit with trepidation, how I would react on the borderland of death. Would I behave like a staunch Buchan hero or panic and run away?

I already had an Indian upbringing which gave me a feel for life in a colonial environment. Until 1953 I grew up in the first years of independent India, but my parents’ life was even then pure British colonial. I was much more seduced by the French version.”