Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Sorrow of War - A Must Read

On the streets of Saigon (and Hanoi as well), you'll see street vendors walking around with a stack of paperback books to sell to tourists. They are usually cheap photocopy ripoffs of books you can get anywhere, and I rarely fell for it.

But on my last day in Saigon, I was approached by a middle-aged woman with one leg and a stack of books. She was of an age to have been a victim of the war, and I never passed those people by without giving some cash.

For some reason, she knew I was a Vietnam vet, and she handed me a copy of The Sorrow of War, by former North Vietnam soldier Bao Ninh:

I originally bought it as a charity contribution to her, but when I started reading it on the plane coming home, I literally couldn't sleep until I finished it. It's an astonishingly honest and brutal depiction of the tragedy of a North Vietnam soldier desensitized to his own humanity after ten years at war.

It's about time that the world woke up to the universal suffering of soldiers on all sides of a conflict, and this book ought to be required reading for anyone considering a "career" in the military.

I especially recommend it to my fellow Vietnam veterans; Bao Ninh truly is our "brother in arms", regardless of the fact that he was on the other side.

It is, in so many respects, the All Quiet on the Western Front of the Vietnam War. It is, as the Bao Ninh Wikipedia article says, among the most moving war stories of all time.

Highly recommended.


jae said...

Hey, the night you posted this, I watched Platoon for the first time ever. It was not easy for a AW-LBH like myself.

I will read this book, but I need to know if it is not a nighttime read...You know what I mean. Let me know!

As an aside, go see 'Religilous'.

Farnsworth68 said...

My perspective is different, of course, but I would recommend that you read this with your full faculties about you. Because of its internal structure, it's not an especially easy read -- particularly in the earlier pages where it seems to suffer from translation problems.
But there's nothing in there that will cause you sleepless nights.
Well, hardly anything...
-- The F Man

BTW, "AW-LBH"???

jae said...

Anti War Liberal Bleeding Heart....


Farnsworth68 said...

Oh, got it!
I guess sometimes I'm not the sharpest tack in the pack...
-- The F Man

Anh Hai said...

I am a Vietnam vet, officer, military intelligence, 9th Infantry, and then with Vietnamese Regional Forces. This is a powerful book. Also I recommend the author Duong Thu Huong, who was a vet of both the Viet-American war and the Viet-Chinese war of 1979.

Farnsworth68 said...

Thank you, Anh Hai. I hadn't heard of Duong Thu Huong, but she certainly seems like an interesting author to read. I will check it out as soon as I can.
Thank you, and I salute you for your service.
-- The Man