It took a while to find the book ‘The Sorrow of War’ by Bao Ninh in the library.
Being the only book with the call number of ‘BAO’, it shyly hid itself among the other books which surrounded it by stretching both vertically and horizontally across the massive library.
“This better be good for all the effort it took to finally have you in my hands,” were the words muttered when picking up the book written by a former soldier of the Vietnam War, one of the ten who survived among the five hundred who went to war with the brigade in 1969.
When reading the novel, I had to question myself what I wanted out of a book which I expected to be ‘good’. How amazing could the traumatising recount of war’s events get? For it to be ‘good’, it had to freeze me in my thoughts and actions.
Frozen I was, for the rest of the week.
Shockingly, it wasn’t the grissly events that left my eyes fixated into nothingness before me . Rather, it was the reality that after hell had already broken loose in the country, civilians and soldiers had to go back to living life normally again after the war.
Their suffering lay in having to carry a portion of hell, living alongside it for the rest of life. One can attempt to ignore the agonising past, but to completely bury it- would be impossible. Maybe it’ll even follow the soldiers into eternity, being the cause for their permanent damnation.
“The end of fighting was like the deflation of an entire landscape, with fields, mountains, and rivers collapsing in themselves.”
In Ninh’s raw recollection of the barbaric war, sorrow gushed forth in surrender and hopelessness lay limp in victory.
After completing half the book, I intentionally put it aside. I could not carry the painful weight of Bao’s memories as he started juxtaposing war scenes with the cherished past of himself and his first love before the war.
History of War in Vietnam
Vietnam was first a part of IndoChina from 1940 to 1945.
IndoChina consists of Cambodia, Laos and the Empire of Annam which includes Tonkin, Annam and Cochin China.
In the late 19th century, the French gradually assimilated the whole of IndoChina into its rule. The Japanese significantly entered the scene in 1938 when both the Japanese and French mobilised for War over control of the region.
In the meanwhile, while Vietnam was being tossed between these two countries, a communist uprising was brewing in the North, led by Ho Ch Minh. Eventually, America would intervene in its attempt to step down upon Communism.
We would then be led into the First IndoChina War (1946-1954), followed by the Second IndoChina War (1955-1975), commonly known as Vietnam’s resistance war against America.
In Vietnam’s resistance war against America, North Vietnam was fighting against South Vietnam’s government. Many other countries had entered the scenes such as South Korea, Australia and Thailand who supported the South of Vietnam and resisted Communism as well as the People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union and other countries who lent military aid to the North.
Check out the page ‘I Love Vietnam’ on youtube. It has a thirty two part series on Vietnam History for Foreigners that we found to be quite comprehensive and easy to understand.
Feature Image: North Vietnamese soldiers by manhhai, Flickr.