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Sorrow of War - Vietnam Conflict

Essay by   •  October 8, 2010  •  Book/Movie Report  •  672 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,304 Views

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BY GERARD CHRETIEN

The media has made sure that all of us are aware of the Vietnam conflict. Readers and movie goers the world over are now familiar with America's suffering in Vietnam and the problems American veterans have endured as they attempted to adjust to civilian life.

Although all life is irreplaceable, the fact remains that the United States lost fewer than a million men in the Vietnam conflict and their social institutions and infrastructure remained relatively intact. The Vietnamese, however, lost two million men and their culture, society, landscape and tradition were literally obliterated. Despite this destruction, their side of this horrendous story has seldom been told. Worse yet, when it is told, they are often portrayed in the most unattractive of all light. Until only a few years ago, the Vietnamese were portrayed by the media as a faceless people with no identity; entities not worth caring about. The turning point came with the publication, in Dutch, of Duong Thu Huong's Blind Paradise in 1994. This landmark book was followed by Bao Ninh's The Sorrow of War.

War novels deal, superficially, with war. But underneath all the blood and horror and carnage lie far deeper social and human issues. The best novels of war, such as Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front and Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, as well as Bao Ninh's The Sorrow of War, also deal with the makeup and morality of a culture or a society gone wrong. The protagonist of these books, whether real or fictional, often endures a harrowing personal struggle through both a public and private hell and usually undergoes some sort of redemption, even if that redemption results in death.

Born in 1952, Bao Ninh served in the Glorious 27th Youth Brigade during the Vietnam conflict. Of the five hundred youths who went to war with this brigade in 1969, Bao Ninh was one of its ten survivors, so it is not unusual that war should be the subject of his first book, considering the impact it has had on his life.

Semi-autobiographical in nature, the protagonist of The Sorrow of War, Kien, is the lone survivor of his brigade and a ten year veteran of the war. As the book opens he is serving as part of an MIA body collection team. It is through his memories that we slowly learn how the war has devastated his youth and the youth of his countrymen. In an attempt

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