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The Sorrow Of War [Paperback]

Bao Ninh
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

17 Oct 1994

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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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (17 Oct 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074939711X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749397111
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"20 years on, [it] had an even greater impact on me than it did first time around... It is a remarkable and important novel" (Jamie Byng Herald)

"The Sorrow of War vaults over all the American fiction that came out of the Vietnam war to take its place alongside the greatest war novel of the century, All Quiet on the Western Front. And this is to understate its qualities for, unlike All Quiet, it is a novel abut much more than war. A book about writing, about lost youth, it is also a beautiful agonising love story... a magnificent achievement" (Independent)

"This hauntingly beautiful novel, written by a North Vietnamese Army veteran, manages to humanise completely a people who up until now have usually been cast as robotic fanatics" (Sunday Times)

"Unputdownable... This book should be required reading for anyone in American politics or policy-making. It should win the Pulitzer Prize, but it won't. It's too gripping for that" (Guardian)

Book Description

'All Quiet on the Western Front for our era' New Statesman

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By Gareth Smyth VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Deeply moving account of war beginning as one of the few survivors of a Vietnamese unit looks for the bodies of dead comrades in the Jungle of Lost Souls - haunted by those who have died. And yet there are other ghosts - those who have lived but are carrying mental and emotional anguish, numbness and hopelessness.
Surely one of the greatest war novels to come out of a century of war, and should be essential reading for political leaders who think construction is as easy as destruction. A book that moves you to tears but somehow makes you more alive, and a tribute in a way to the resilience of the Vietnamese people in the face of barely imaginable horror.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most moving story ever written 25 July 2001
By A Customer
Having visited Vietnam I was impressed with the way the author wrote truthfully about the war and the impact upon the individual. Well worth reading if you want an insight into what really happened during this traumatic and horrendous time of Vietnamese history.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The war from the other side 14 Jan 2008
This is, quite simply, one of the most moving books I have ever read. Of the 500 original members of his brigade who went off to war against America, Bao Ninh was one of only 10 who survived. That puts in perspective the, relatively speaking, minor losses on the American side (55,000 killed, as against an estimated 2-3 million Vietnamese who lost their lives). Despite the unbelievable sacrifices and losses on his side, this is not a book of rancour - indeed the Americans hardly figure in it at all. It is a book about the sorrow and loss of war, and the often futile attempt of survivors to put their lives back together again afterwards. For Bao, who was away for ten years of fighting (again, in contrast to most American soldiers, whose tours of duty generally lasted only a year or two), it is about the loss of his youth, and the loss of love. Most of all, it is about the attempt to somehow exorcise the demons and nightmares through the act of writing (which as Primo Levi proved, after a lifetime of post-Holocaust writing, is still not always possible). Achingly beautiful.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A view from the other side 5 Jun 2000
By A Customer
This is a great piece of work. It is gentle at times while horrific at others. It provides an alternative perspective with integrity and insight in the telling of the other side's story from a point of 'Being Human' as opposed to 'Being Political'.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
Other reviewers have coupled this book with Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried (Flamingo) and I would agree that both are essential reads in order to understand the Vietnam War (or, as Bao Ninh would phrase it, the American War). But by the time O'Brien joined the ill-fated Americal Division in Quang Ngai province in 1969, most of the American troops were quite cynical about the war. The subject quote is how Bao Ninh chooses to end the book, which triggers comparisons with We Were Soldiers Once...And Young: The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam And both have either portions, or are entirely set in the Central Highlands. They are also quite different books, with Moore & Galloway's book being more straight military history, tactics et al., whereas Bao Ninh's addresses the inner spirit, but both capture that element of the war that was dominant in 1965, the youth, naiveté, and idealistic purpose of the initial participants. Another reviewer entitled his: "The All Quiet on the Western Front of the Vietnam War." And that too is a valid, and excellent comparison, for both books capture the terrible sense of dislocation that the participants of long wars feel in terms of ever fitting back into the life of a civilian society that they had left. Bao Dinh captured that sense, not only of dislocation, but of sheer amazement at having survived that long on page 43: "Even me, I'm nearly forty. I was eighteen at the start of the war in 1965, twenty-eight at the fall of Saigon in 1974. So, how many long years have passed? Ten or eleven? Twelve. No thirteen? Another year with the MIA team. Or was it longer? Read more ›
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A War Novel Without Hate 9 Feb 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This novel is both a remarkable work of literature (most importantly the translation is of an unusually high quality) and an account of the misery of war by someone who had clearly experienced it first-hand. The author is not interested in ideological self-justification (perhaps that is not necessary, given the nature of the onslaught suffered by this small nation), and it is indeed a novel written in sorrow and not in anger. If someone were only to read two books on Vietnam and the related conflict in Cambodia, I would suggest this one and The Gate, a harrowing factual account by someone who against all odds came out of one of Pol Pot's death camps alive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
In his novel in a novel Bao Ninh gives us a rare insight into the war scene of those who beat the Americans and their allies in Vietnam. His sometimes brutally violent and emotional picture shows that war everywhere is a `Jungle of Screaming Souls', causing psychological ruin and familial and social destruction. For the rest of their lives, it will leave deep inextinguishable scars in those who were lucky to survive

The horror scenes resemble pictures of Hieronymus Bosch: `only his skeleton was complete, like that of a frog thrown into a mud patch. Crows had pecked away Car's face; his mouth was full of mud and rotting leaves.'
It is a world of hunger, malaria, ulcers, hallucinations and nightmares (`groups of headless black American soldiers carrying lanterns aloft'); not only of heroic battles, but also of desertions and political indoctrination (`the anti-intellectual atmosphere of the state ideologies').
The losses are tremendous: `the short story of my life. First my brothers, then my mother, then my husband, then my son.'
After the war, integration in the civil society is difficult: `impoverishes demobilized soldiers, playing cards, smoking pot and other weeds, most of them unemployed.' Family lives and loves from before the war are completely shattered.

For Bao Ninh, `the divine war had paid him for all his suffering and losses with more suffering and losses at home.'
He rote this book, `to rid myself of these devils, to put my tormented soul finally to rest instead of letting it float in a pool of shame and sorrow.'

This `Path of no Glory' should not be missed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by ste holt
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Spot on!!!!
Published 2 months ago by Francis Brady
4.0 out of 5 stars Bronze candy
The Vietnam war from the Communist side except this is barely political at all. It's a human story of a slightly soft bourgeois boy who joins up in 1965 and somehow, to his own... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Officer Dibble
2.0 out of 5 stars not worth it
I bought this book after reading other review and thinking it would have some historical interest, but I couldn't get into it, it was so disjointed and I gave up in the end. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Catherine
4.0 out of 5 stars A hard read
Brutal and difficult to read, but probably frighteningly accurate account of life on the ground for the northern Vietnamese during the war.
Published 11 months ago by Izibee
3.0 out of 5 stars Captures your attention, interesting and offering a bit different...
I read it as part of A2 Vietnam History and while the book was certainty interesting, offering account from 'the other side', there were book that offered much more. Read more
Published 12 months ago by MICHAL KRAWIEC
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
A tale based on the experience of a Vietnamese veteran of the American War. Ideal companion for a holiday in Vietnam.
Published 17 months ago by Mr. J. W. Sturt
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspired fractured narrative
Reading an account of the American war from the perspective of an NVA combatant provides a revelation of how similar the preoccupations of the Vietnamese soldiers were to those of... Read more
Published 18 months ago by 100dhs
4.0 out of 5 stars heavybook
a very demanding read but worth it the subject matter is heavey and dark but im glad i read it
Published 18 months ago by sjm
4.0 out of 5 stars Some spelling mistakes in the edition
The Sorrow of War itself is a very confusing novel with no chapters or a clear-cut plot to follow. I will not judge this edition on the contents of the novel though, but on the... Read more
Published 20 months ago by ...
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