In mid-December, two US veterans and writers came to Vietnam to launch their works about the Vietnam war.
Larry Heinemann and Bruce Weigl have returned to Vietnam many times in their capacity as writers and veterans who served in the war from 1967-68. This time they came with gifts – “Paco’s Story”, a novel by Heinemann, and “The Circle of Hanh”, a memoir by Weigl – published in a Vietnamese language version by the Women’s Publishing House.
Both books draw on the background of the Vietnam war and post-war obsessions. The war finished more than 40 years ago but for the US veterans, their memories about it are still haunting.
Paco’s Story (1986), the second and most critically acclaimed novel by Heinemann, won the 1987 National Book Award for Fiction. It was published in English, German, French and Spanish, and now in Vietnamese with the translation by Pham Anh Tuan.
Paco's Story relates the post-war experiences of its protagonist, haunted by the ghosts of his dead comrades, who provide the novel's distinctive narrative voice. The story deals with the seemingly contradictory and morally ambiguous role of the soldier as both victimizer and victim.
Heinemann was born in 1944 in Chicago, Illinois. He served a combat tour as a conscripted draftee in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968 with the 25 th Infantry Division. Besides short stories and non-fiction, he wrote three novels, including “Close Quarters”, “Paco’s Story” and “Cooler by the Lake”, and one memoir “Black Virgin Mountain”, and three of these works are related to the Vietnam war.
Bruce Weigl was born in 1949 in Lorain, Ohio, and now teaches at Lorain County Community College.
In 1995, he adopted a Vietnamese girl, named Nguyen Thi Hanh, who became the character of “The Circle of Hanh”, published in the US in 2000. Hanh translated this memoir into Vietnamese.
In “ The Circle of Hanh ”, Weigl writes, "The war took away my life and gave me poetry in return...the fate the world has given me is to struggle to write powerfully enough to draw others into the horror".
On the occasion, Weigl also launched his poetical memoir, “After the Rain Stopped Pounding”, which has been translated into Vietnamese by Nguyen Phan Que Mai and published by Youth Publishing House.
Both writers found truth, and recognised the futility and cruelty of the war that they were involved in. Both of them were confronted by their own war obsessions and created stories not only about actual truth but also emotional truth.