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Old Saigon Building of the Week: 141 Võ Văn Tần

The colonial villa at 141 Võ Văn Tần, next door to the Estar office building, is the house where acclaimed French writer Marguerite Duras (1914-1996) spent her last year in Sài Gòn.

The real-life affair between high school student Marguerite Donnadieu (Marguerite Duras) and rich Chinese Léo Huỳnh Thủy Lê, which inspired her 1984 Prix Goncourt-winning novel l’Amant (The Lover), took place between 1929 and 1931, during Marguerite’s first two years of study at the Lycée Chasseloup-Laubat, now the Lê Quý Đôn Secondary School.

After the affair ended, the Donnadieu family went back to France, but a year later they returned so that Marguerite could complete her studies at the lycée. The villa at 141 rue Testard (Võ Văn Tần) was their home from 1932 until the family finally left Indochina in 1933.

Today the villa at 141 Võ Văn Tần serves as the personnel office of a local bank.

Tim Doling is the author of The Railways and Tramways of Việt Nam (White Lotus Press, 2012) and the forthcoming book of walking tours entitled Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and also conducts 4-hour Heritage Tours of Historic Saigon and Cholon. For more information about Saigon history and Tim's tours visit his website, www.historicvietnam.com.

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