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» » The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam
The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam

The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam

Bao Ninh
PDF book size:
1305 kb
ePub book size:
1528 kb
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1921 kb
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4.1 of 5
Pantheon; 1st American ed edition (February 14, 1995)
Genre Fiction
A North Vietnamese man, Kien, narrates his memories of his youth, the pains of adolescence, his experience of the war, and his attempts, as a struggling writer in postwar Hanoi, to cope with the horrors of war and his own survival. 17,500 first printing.
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7 Reviews
  • I heard about this book from Doug Anderson during one of his readings. Doug is a very accomplished writer who is also a Vietnam vet, and had met Bao Ninh in Boston. When he described the book, I had to read it for the unique viewpoint of a North Vietnamese soldier. This book is written in such a stunning, poetic fashion, yet it does not hide the gruesome horrors of war, and what war does to people. Anyone who studies war and history should read this book. I come from a family of vets who - like me - volunteered to serve our country, only to return with hard lessons and unanswered questions about the human condition. Bao Ninh will take you on a journey through the "other side's" land of horrors, in a book that can never be forgotten. A vital work.

  • This work is about the Vietnam war from a North Vietnamese soldier's point of view. It isn't particularly political, though it was banned in Vietnam for a time, perhaps still is, because it was critical of the war and of politics. A soldier's reflection on the atrocities of war and psychological damage war inflicts upon nations and upon the soldiers and citizens. Can a person or society ever heal from war? This, I believe is an important question asked by the question, and, as Roland Barthes proposes, "literature is the question minus the answer," and Bao Ninh's work is true to Barthes' proposal on this point.

    I am loathe to provide spoilers, and for literary works, style is as much a part of the content as plot, so I suppose this is a spoiler of sorts: The plot is not presented in a linear way, but dislocates time, which is common in many Vietnam War novels. I imagine a masters or doctoral thesis can be performed on Vietnam War novels and the dislocation of time as a stylistic device. For this novel, however, it is an absolute necessity stylistically to produce the effect the novel builds to near the end, so stick with it if you have trouble with that approach to plot.

  • Mesmerizing and well-written love and war "memoir" of North Vietnamese soldier of the Vietnam war. The devastation and cruelties of war had robbed young lovebirds of their youth, their innocence, their happiness...and now they are left hardened-hearted, indifferent to vulnerable emotions, and incapable of being in love or feeling happy. The stories jumped around in timeline; however, the main character (Kien)'s memories were so vivid and many times visceral in his war experience: no mention of glory, victory or necessarily defeats but mostly the story-telling led through fates of the deaths and how those haunting souls never left Kien.

    My favorite quotes:

    "...hard to remember a time when his whole personality and character had been in tact, a time before the cruelty and the destruction of war had warped his soul. A time when he had been deeply in love, passionate aching with desire, hilariously frivolous and lighthearted...when he too was worthy of being a lover and in love...but war was a world with no home, no roof, no comforts. A miserable journey of endless drifting... War was also a world without romance. He couldn't avoid the drain on his soul, the ruin his young men were escaping from as they set about squeezing the last remaining drops of love from their nightly adventures."

  • One of the best novels about war and about the responsibilities of writing and bearing witness. The book is essential reading for Americans (and is certainly not DRV propaganda) and for anyone questioning militarism. I really can't praise this book enough! It's engaging and reads quickly, but still has a lot of depth, so it rewards everything from casual reading to serious study.

    The translation is quite good as well, except a few typos and (in the Kindle edition) missing diacritical marks on Vietnamese names. It'd be nice as well if there were the translator explained that, in Vietnamese, people address each other using "uncle," "aunt," "little brother," "grandfather," etc, in order to show relative status, NOT because they are related--this confused me at first.

  • One of the best, and most engaging books, I have every read. I have purchased several copies to give to friends. Read this book to find out why we lost the war in Vietnam and why it could not have ended any other way. Really masterful. The independent in the UK was right when it called it the best war book since 'all is quiet on the Western Front', written by a German soldier who was in WW I....A mjust read.

  • A first hand perspective on the Vietnam War that most Americans like myself have not heard. The book is based on the author's life before, during and just after his service in the North Vietnamese Army. Even Americans who served in the war and who are familiar with the experience of their South Vietnamese allies, they have likely not heard much of what the war was like for the soldiers on the other side. So much suffering occurred during this war, even for those who fought for the North and returned to their homes as heroes.

    That being said, this was easily the most depressing book I have ever read. Bao Ninh spares nothing when describing the things he saw and experienced in combat and the heart wrenching pain of loss in his post-war life. Not for the faint of heart.

  • Although presented as a novel, it seems obvious that this book is really memoir of a soldier who fought as part of the North Vietnamese army. Apparently, Bao Ninh realized that if he told his own story in a straightforward way, it would never make it past the censors in communist Vietnam. So he told his own story as a piece of fiction. If it looked like a made-up story, the government wouldn't care as much. That's one way of thinking about how this book came into existence, and it makes sense to me. Anyway, even in translation, Bao Ninh's story is elegant, evocative, haunting, memorable. It is not for the faint of heart, and will likely change the way American readers think about the Vietnam War.