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The Sorrow Of War: A Novel of North Vietnam

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  5,723 ratings  ·  642 reviews
Bao Ninh, a former North Vietnamese soldier, provides a strikingly honest look at how the Vietnam War forever changed his life, his country, and the people who live there. Originally published against government wishes in Vietnam because of its non-heroic, non-ideological tone, The Sorrow of War has won worldwide acclaim and become an international bestseller
Paperback, 233 pages
Published April 1st 1996 by Riverhead Books/The Berkley Publishing Group/Penguin Putnam Inc. (first published 1987)
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Aditya आदित्य Negi It is a novel about the Vietnam War from the perspective of the Vietnamese.

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Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: vietnamese, war
The Future Lied To Us

A reminiscence, rather than a memoir, tumbling between the time before war, eleven years of brutal fighting, and then its aftermath. Shifting from first to third person, with the occasional second person letter, the story is as unstructured as the lives involved. And none of it is politically correct: “No. The ones who loved war were not the young men, but the others like the politicians, middle-aged men with fat bellies and short legs. Not the ordinary people. The recent ye
Will Byrnes
Oct 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Kien is a survivor of the Viet Nam war, a North Vietnamese survivor. This book is written by a North Vietnamese writer and clearly evokes much of his experience in what was a much longer war for the Vietnamese than it was for Americans. The similarities between the affects of war on all sides are clear, but this tale is uniquely home grown. The story is told in several different time lines. Kien recalls his youth, his early years in the military, a time ten years after he entered the war, events ...more
Steve Woods
Aug 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ptsd, vietnam-war
This is a book that every veteran who saw combat in Vietnam should read. It gives the other side and points up so poignantly the universal suffering of all soldiers. It helped me to come to an understanding that none of the anger and resentment I feel about my service in Indochina had anything to do with those we called the enemy but towards those who put us where we were;who trained us to fight and steel our hearts towards those who were always referred to as "gooks, dinks, or nogs";those who c ...more
Ben Jaques-Leslie
Jul 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes when you read a book in translation, it's hard to tell who to congratulate on a job well done. Is it the author or the translator? In the case of the Sorrow of War, the credit most certainly goes to the author, Bao Ninh. It is amazing that this book can be some horrifying and heart-wrenching through such a poor translation. When I was in Vietnam in 2001, I saw the author speak about this book to our class. he was quiet and soft-spoken. He wasn't exactly popular with the Vietnamese gove ...more
Steve Kettmann
Apr 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2010
As the title makes clear, this is not a book you can read without some real emotional work; Bao Ninh, pen name of a North Vietnamese veteran, barely mentions the invading Americans, except in a few searing passages that come through with a cinematic calm and vividness. His overall subject is what war does to the people who fight it, and the novel is in part about the writing of the novel, the kind of approach that usually fails, at least in my estimation, but here works oddly well. It helps to e ...more
Courtney Lindwall
Feb 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: War Buffs?
Recommended to Courtney by: Required
Shelves: 2010, required
My main problem with this book, besides the general lack of character development and plot, is that its overall theme seems overdone.

The novel follows the story of a North Vietnamese soldier that loses love and faces the hardships of a physical, but also emotional war. Now, it might have been the fact that I had read Things They Carried and Red Badge of Courage only months before, but writing a story about the idea that war causes "emotional struggles" is not new. It is no longer controversia
William Graney
Aug 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The first half of this book read like an opium dream. The battles and the imagery from the Jungle of the Screaming Souls presented me with a very different perspective of the North Vietnamense soldier than what I thought it would be.
In fact, my view of just about everything I thought I knew about North Vietnam from the mid-60's to the mid-70's was altered by this book.
In the second half of the book there is a lot more focus on the main character (Kien) and his childhood sweetheart Phuong. Every
Inderjit Sanghera
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In 'The Sorrow of War', Ninh dissects the horrors of war, his harrowing account exploring the psychological impact war has people, how is strips soldiers of their sense of humanity, of their innocence, the sense of adventure and solidarity it engenders is soon  overtaken by the cruelty and violence it exposes soldiers to;

"Forever he would ache with the longing to follow that shining light from the horizons of his past; to return to those moments of the first sparks of war, the glimmerings of his
Ming Wei
Havea big interest in military history, which as influenced many of the stories that I have published. My knowledge of the Vietnam war was limited until I read this book, I really enjoyed it, easy to read and follow, would read more of this authors work if military related
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolute must read for anyone interested in the Vietnam War. Especially if you ever wondered what it was like from the North's side. I would put this novel up against any written from the American perspective. And at the heart of this vivid account of war is a tragic love story worthy of Shakespeare.
Paul Fulcher
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
The sorrow of war inside a soldier’s heart was in a strange way similar to the sorrow of love. It was a kind of nostalgia, like the immense sadness of a world at dusk. It was a sadness, a missing, a pain which could send one soaring back into the past. The sorrow of the battlefield could not normally be pinpointed to one particular event, or even one person. If you focused on any one event it would soon become a tearing pain.

The next book in my project to read all the past winners of the Indepen
This was my first time reading anything from the vast oeuvre of Vietnamese literature, so I can't compare it to a canon Bao was probably inspired by. What I can compare it to is the range of American stories and movies concerning that vicious land war that slashed three nations to ribbons. The parallels to the Deer Hunter are striking, really.

He writes in an intimately personal, rather modernist idiom that has largely been forgotten by Anglo-American writers. Rather than rely on linear nattive,
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia, vietnam-war
An unconventional, powerful novel about the Vietnam war.
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A short book about the horrors of war. It appealed because I wanted to read something from the Vietnamese viewpoint.

The protagonist is a survivor - most of his comrades so not make it through the war, and his life after the war is profoundly affected.

The book builds to a horrific event early on in its chronology, which is really sickening but goes a long way to explaining the nihilistic world view of some of the characters. Well worth a read.
James Langer
Mar 08, 2010 rated it it was ok
At the end of the text, the author writes, “Many would say this was a disruption of the plot, a disconnection, a loss of perspective. They’d say this style proved the writer’s inherent weakness: his spirit was willing but his flesh wasn’t.” (Ninh 230) The novel reads like memories scattered on pages; like diary pages ripped out, shuffled, and sewn together into a story. It has been said that art is either revolution or plagiarism. Bao Ninh certainly takes risk with his writing style, eliminating ...more
J.M. Hushour
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The novel was the ash from this exorcism of devils."

At all turns a tremendous and ghastly novel of war and most especially its aftermath. This might very well be the best "war" novel I've ever read, though it is far more about piecing together one's experience in war and trying to sift through it for a sign of how one should go on.
Kien is the thinly-disguised author who, I'm assuming, drew off his own horrific experience over the decade of the Vietnam War, as a soldier from the North. Kien reme
A rare insight into the mind of a North Vietnam soldier. He seemed driven by a duty to be a good soldier, a mate but realistic that they were fighting a more well equipped enemy so life was likely to be short. There was no ideology driven mantra. His experiences in the war were brutal and after the war he struggles with his experiences, of lives lost and finding a future. Interesting that the returned soldiers received the same disinterested reception as their American and allies received.
The bo
Sep 04, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had always felt guilty that I had not read such an important work of fiction about the Vietnam War. So when I was at Tan Son Nhat airport looking for some reading materials to buy before I boarded the plane back to Singapore, I asked the shop attendant:
- Chị ơi có cuốn "Nỗi buồn chiến tranh" không chị? (Hello, do you have the book "The sorrow of war"?)
Then she replied:
- Dạ hông có chị ơi em xin lỗi (We don't have that book, I am sorry).
I was very surprised to hear that, because I knew that th
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kien became a writer to try to piece his life together, though, he continued to experience "...similar, even identical moments, long periods of withdrawal. Like the dead, one felt no fear, no enthusiasm, no joy, no sadness, no feelings for anything. No concerns and no hopes. One was totally devoid of feeling and had no regard for the clever or the stupid, the brave or the cowardly, commanders r privates, friend or foe, life or death, happiness or sadness. It was all the same; it amounted to noth ...more
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
On March 6, 2018 I read a short piece in "Counterpunch" by Marc Levy entitled "William Joiner Institute Under Siege."
Two days later after finishing a book, I was going through a pile of books to read and found this book, and thought I just read a mention of this book. I went back to "Counterpunch" and re-read Levy. In his piece, he describes reading the book and floating above his bed. This was the Universe directing me to read this.

Thank you Universe.

"The Sorrow of War" is about so much: the V
Mar 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
as fascinating as this novel is, i can't help feeling a bit disappointed with it now that i'm finished. to my western eyes, it's pretty unique - a diaristic, plot-less account of a north vietnamese soldier's hardships during a war i'm well-versed in seeing from the opposite perspective. i'm a bit ashamed to admit this, but i don't think i've ever read a vietnamese novel before, so the fact that a few areas didn't resonate with me may reflect my own ignorance about the culture the novel comes fro ...more
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful novel about the war in Viet Nam written by a soldier from North Viet Nam. In some ways, it resonates with the powerful novels about the war written by American GIs -- traumatic flashbacks, PTSD, desperate solutions through alcohol and rage -- but, of course, it is profoundly different because the war takes place in his homeland and affects his family, his lover, the land and everyone around him so deeply. The main character, Kien, is also writing a novel about his war experien ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Sorrow of War is Vietnam's counterpart to the works of Tim O'Brien. Bao Ninh was one of ten survivors from the 500 men who went south with the Glorious 27th Youth Brigade in 1969. His narrator, Kien, is clearly an alter ego. In this non-linear, densely woven story, Kien moves through collecting the dead and missing in the Forest of Screaming Souls just after the armistice is signed, years of desperate and horrifying combat with a scout platoon, and the alcoholic shadow of a life in Hanoi dri ...more
Patrick McCoy
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
When I read Anthony Bourdrain’s A Cook’s Tour, he mentioned that he got a copy of Bao Nihn’s war novel, The Sorrow of War, and consumed it in an afternoon at the beach while visiting Vietnam. So I decided to see what it was about. It’s a short, but powerful novel that illustrates the destructive nature of war. It’s not always the battle itself, but the situations people find themselves in because of the war. The loss of innocence, unruly behavior of humans in general, the break up of families an ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steven-John Tait
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was lucky enough to find a special English copy full of marginalia at a second hand book stall on Nguyen Van Binh in Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon).

A Vietnamese person had been reading it and every space is filled with their handwriting in ink or pencil where they translated words and phrases.

I found the story to be very powerful and tragic, showing how Kien and Phuong’s lives were stolen by the war even though they survived it.

I think it would have been beautiful if it ended on page 209 with th
Claire Reads Books
A searing, sorrowful book about the Vietnam War, written by a North Vietnamese veteran who weathered the deadliest, most turbulent years of the conflict. The vignettes that comprise much of this work seem to be deeply informed by Ninh’s own experiences as a young soldier, to the point that the narrative perspective occasionally slips from the fictional third person to the more visceral first. This is a fevered, elliptical account in which truth and fiction, past and present, memory and nostalgia ...more
Apr 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
While traveling in Vietnam, I was informed that the Vietnamese refer to 'the Vietnam War' as 'the American War.' I think it's easy to lose track of the fact that there are two sides to every conflict. Without getting into the politics of whether war is ever justified, this book is a reminder of the damage done to the ordinary people who get caught up in it. But Ninh's book is a whole lot more than a cautionary tale about the effects of war. It's a dreamy, poetic recounting of youth and love and ...more
Sep 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
FINALLY finished this book! It started out really great but it grew increasingly confusing and boring and also I read this for school and I have a teacher who expects extremely thorough annotations so it was basically a torture to go through this book because I had to force myself to slave through it and jot down seemingly meaningful notes in the small margins and it quite possibly took me more than 24 hours straight to annotate the entire book because I remember slaving away for 4 hours each on ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, insightful, touching, poignant, tragic and sad. This novel is Vietnam's answer to All Quiet on the Western Front, being highly descriptive of a war in which the author participated.

What makes it far more interesting is that he was in the North Vietnamese Army, the book offering a very different viewpoint to all the other books about the Vietnam conflict I have read.

It proves (yet again) that whatever the rights and wrongs of the politics, when countries go to war, ordinary people su
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Where You're From- Worldy Styles of Writing 2 8 Jun 07, 2018 02:12AM  
"The sorrow of war" by Bao Ninh 2 9 Sep 08, 2017 02:16AM  
Why I want to Read it 8 61 Aug 17, 2014 08:40PM  

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Bảo Ninh (sinh ngày 18 tháng 10 năm 1952) là nhà văn Việt Nam viết tiểu thuyết và truyện ngắn.

Tiểu sử
Bảo Ninh tên thật là Hoàng Ấu Phương, sinh tại huyện Diễn Châu, tỉnh Nghệ An, quê ở xã Bảo Ninh, huyện Quảng Ninh, tỉnh Quảng Bình, Việt Nam. Ông là con trai của Giáo sư Hoàng Tuệ (1922 - 1999), nguyên Viện trưởng Viện Ngôn ngữ học. Ông vào bộ đội năm 1969. Thời chiến tranh, ông chiến đấu ở mặt t

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“The sorrow of war inside a soldier's heart was in a strange way similar to the sorrow of love. It was a kind of nostalgia, like the immense sadness of a world at dusk. It was a daness, a missing, a pain which could send one soaring back into the past. The sorrow of the battlefield could not normally be pinpointed to one particular event, or even one person. If you focused on any one event it would soon become a tearing pain.” 14 likes
“Nhưng mỗi người trong chúng tôi bị chiến tranh chà nát theo một kiểu riêng, mỗi người ngay từ ngày đó đã mang trong lòng một cuộc chiến tranh của riêng mình nhiều khi hoàn toàn khác với cuộc chiến đấu chung, những nhìn nhận mà sâu trong lòng cực kỳ khác nhau về con người, về thời đại chiến trận, và đương nhiên mỗi người một số phận hậu chiến. Có thể nói chúng tôi giống nhau ở chỗ là hoàn toàn khác nhau trong cái vẻ hoàn toàn giống nhau trong quá trình nặng nề đeo đuổi cuộc chiến. Nhưng chúng tôi còn có chung một nỗi buồn, nỗi buồn chiến tranh mênh mang, nỗi buồn cao cả, cao hơn hạnh phúc và vượt trên đau khổ. Chính nhờ nỗi buồn mà chúng tôi đã thoát khỏi chiến tranh, thoát khỏi bị chôn vùi trong cảnh chém giết triền miên, trong cảnh khốn khổ của những tay súng, những đầu lê, những ám ảnh bạo lực và bạo hành, để bước trở lại con đường riêng của mỗi cuộc đời có lẽ chẳng sung sướng gì và cũng đầy tội lỗi, nhưng vẫn là cuộc đời đẹp đẽ nhất mà chúng tôi có thể hy vọng, bởi vì đấy là đời sống hòa bình.” 6 likes
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