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Kien's job is to search the Jungle of Screaming Souls for corpses. He knows the area well - this was where, in the dry season of 1969, his battalion was obliterated by American napalm and helicopter gunfire. Kien was one of only ten survivors. This book is his attempt to understand the eleven years of his life he gave to a senseless war. Based on true experiences of Bao Ninh and banned by the communist party, this novel is revered as the 'All Quiet on the Western Front for our era'.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780749397111
ISBN-10: 074939711X
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 15mm)
Pages: 240
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 17-Oct-1994
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » Bao Ninh was one of only ten survivors from the 500-strong Glorious 27th Youth Brigade during the Vietnam War. His harrowing book is remarkable: firstly because his North Vietnamese viewpoint is a rare antidote to the gung-ho American version, and secondly it is so much more than just a war book, being both a tragic love story and a meditation on lost youth and innocence. It is extremely gruesome in place, there is some very black humour, and it has a complex but skilfully executed structure which, we can only assume, has helped him gain the distance he needed to write about such experiences. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » A North Vietnamese veteran transforms his nation's conflict into an elegiac ode to doomed youth caught up in wars not of their making. This novel does not view war as a big, defining male adventure, but rather as something that crushes its participants when they are "young, very pure, and very sincere" and leaves behind a legacy of"sublime sorrow, more sublime than happiness and beyond suffering." The narrator, Kien, is a veteran turned writer who joined the army fresh out of school. In a narrative that moves back and forth in time, he records not only the horrors of war, but also his unsatisfactory relationships with his father and with Phuong, the young woman he's loved since childhood. An assignment searching for bodies after a big battle begins his story. It reminds him of old comrades killed in action, of friends deserting because they wanted to see their families, and of his doomed love for Phuong, who, raped repeatedly on a train under bombardment, became "a hardened experienced woman, indifferent to vulnerable emotions." He also describes his current difficulties: finding a place to live, money worries, and the memories that continue to assail him as he writes. ("The conflicts continued from the lines on pages into the real life of the author, the fighting refused to die.") At the end, we learn that this story is an abandoned manuscript being readied for publication by a stranger who understands that Kien wrote, "not because he had to publish...he had to think on paper." As one of 10 surviving members of a Youth Brigade once 500 strong, the author has the appropriate background for writing this novel, but - more importantly - his alchemy transforms the recognizable horrors of an actual war into universal experiences. A war novel in the great tradition of Remarque and Sassoon. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Bao Ninh

Bao Ninh was born in Hanoi in 1952. During the Vietnam war he served with the Glorious 27th Youth Brigade. Of the five hundred who went to war with the brigade in 1969, he is one of ten who survived. A huge bestseller in Vietnam, The Sorrow of War is his first novel.