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The Sorrow Of War: A Novel of North Vietnam

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  7,803 ratings  ·  896 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 It is a novel about the Vietnam War from the perspective of the Vietnamese.

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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
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war, vietnamese
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
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
Shelves: 2010
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
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful novel about the struggle to live with the knowledge that one has survived. The biography of the author in my copy states, "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."

But this isn't a memoir, though it obviously draws on the author's experiences. It's a novel, told in the third person and focusing on the experiences of Kien. It begins after the war is over, as the "Missing In Action body-
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. ...more
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,
Paul Fulcher
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: ib-iffp-winners, 2018
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
Eating sushi
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
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.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam-war, asia
An unconventional, powerful novel about the Vietnam war.
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
John Turner
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam-war
As a soldier who did a 14 month tour in Vietnam and 14 plus years active duty, I hardly know where to begin the review this book. I graduated from high school in 1965, joining the Army a year later. This is the story of Bao Kien, a North Vietnamese soldier and my enemy. When he was 17, in 1965, just graduated rom high school in Hanoi, he was conscripted to the Glorius 27th Youth Brigade in the North Vietnamese Army. The author writes transparently, making it difficult to tell which is fiction an ...more
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
Oct 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
heartbreaking and deep
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I've ever read (and yes, I know, I say that a lot).

I am shocked by reviews from readers being "Vietnamed out" when they read this. I mean, it's from the perspective of an NVA soldier. Maybe we should all read more books by North Vietnamese authors. It's not like it glorified the war or demonized Americans and the ARVN. It was completely refreshing to me.

When I started this book, I had just read a book from the American perspective of the Vietnam War. Some of the Am
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
May 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A friend of mine gave me a copy of this book that he had brought back from a trip to Costa Rica in the mid-1990s. It haunts me still when I reflect upon it and burns in my subconscious like the Wille Pete (white phosphorous) our military used to terrorize the Vietnamese. It is the story of Kien, a North Vietnamese soldier. After the war, in 1976, Kien and others are sent to the Central Highlands to collect bodies for reburial. They are sent to The Jungle of Screaming Souls where Kien was the onl ...more
Dani Dányi
May 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
War is not fun. For a detailed account of just how complicatedly unfun war gets, read this book. It is not fun, the title says as much, but life gets that way for a lot of unfortunate people who are just born on the wrong side of a shitstorm, and very few get to survive and even tell the tale in a sublimely meaningful way.
Bao Ninh's book is a sensitive, unflinching and relentless venture, coming to terms with what most readers will hopefully not recognize as their own life. This is a strenuous
Claire Reads Books
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
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
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
A book written about the Vietnam war from the perspective of a North Vietnamese solider. The story is about a soldier who has flashbacks to the war and to cure his demons he writes down the memories of his traumatic experiences. The book is brutal in the futility and arbitrariness of fate. He is one of a few survivors from his battalion.

The innocence of his childhood and the insanity of the war is wonderfully described. A novella well worth reading and I can understand why it won the independen
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
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Goodreads Librari...: Request to add different edition of Krigets sorger 2 34 Oct 29, 2022 04:27AM  
Where You're From- Worldy Styles of Writing 2 9 Jun 07, 2018 02:12AM  
"The sorrow of war" by Bao Ninh 2 14 Sep 08, 2017 02:16AM  
Why I want to Read it 8 64 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.” 17 likes
“Mẹ kiếp, hòa-bình chẳng qua là thứ cây mọc lên từ máu thịt bao anh em mình, để chừa lại chút xương. Mà những người được phân công nằm lại gác rừng le là những người đáng sống nhất.” 9 likes
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