Not a Post

The Allies found murdered civilians as we took Hue back after Tet 1968.  Next year we will review the history.

At the time Pham Duy composed a direct response. Khanh Ly still sings it.


I am not a plant or a tree!

I am not a post or a stone!

So I weep for our Viet Nam, for three long generations

Robbed of joy.

I’m not a random passerby,

I’m not a fellow from some other clan,

So I weep for one, not far away, fallen on the battlefield

While still a youth.

Don’t disguise it with the sound of singing,

Don’t think you need a pair of tinted glasses,

Look unblinking at our ruined countryside;

Count one by one the bodies of our guiltless dead;

Rage against these fratricidal battles;

Weep in spirit even if your well of tears is dry.

Know enough to grieve; know enough to be ashamed!

For our hills and streams are covered in a pall of black.

I cannot stand by indifferently!

I cannot stand here in silence!

So I scream into the void words more terrible

Than guns or bombs.

I cannot stand by with muted mouth!

I cannot have ears that hear no sound!

Therefore I weep, and shall lose my senses till the day

That peace returns.

[Translation by Eric Henry of Toi khong phai la go da by Pham Duy.]

Viet Nam Literature Project blogs about our encyclopedia, our comics and translations as we develop our university program. Donors receive our print newsletter and annual comic book.

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Gustav Hasford

Click to read the novel.

After the new year Joker and Rafter Man fight through Hue.  Their author Gustav Hasford did it over Tet 1968 as a United States Marine Corps combat correspondent.

Joker survives to patrol out from Khe Sanh Combat Base.   He shoots his squad leader dead when a sniper wounds Cowboy as bait.

I laugh and laugh.  The squad freezes with fear because the sniper is laughing with me.  The sniper and I are laughing together and we know that sooner or later the squad will be laughing too.

Click to read the novel.

Joker is still laughing when his next novel begins.  Across the wire at Khe Sanh he is calling out the Phantom Blooper, the legendary white Viet Cong.

Captured, Joker himself makes friends with the Vietnamese communists.  Rescued and discharged he flees Alabama toward the liberated zone.

The only time I ever felt like I was being what an American should be and doing what an American should be doing was when I was a prisoner of the Viet Cong.  I could be real there.  I could be myself.

Click to read the novel.

We never see Joker again.   Gus Hasford died nineteen years ago this Sunday from diabetes then organ failure achieved with hamburgers, milk, cola and beer.

He lived in his car in Los Angeles while writing porn and developing The Short Timers in science fiction circles.   He worked on its movie, published The Phantom Blooper, then started a hard-boiled series about a Marine who deals in books from the Old West.

It is a typical California twilight, clear, perfect, and balmy.  You can smell sea air and pizza.  White-clad window washers on scaffolds are lowering themselves down the face of the monstrous Tomb of the Unknown Veteran they call the Federal Building, a bald concrete monolith overlooking a veterans’ cemetery which extends to the horizon.

David A. Willson at the Hasford symposium.  Click to read the transcript.

David A. Willson thinks that The Short-Timers is the great Viet Nam war novel.  David doesn’t read them in French or Vietnamese but no one else will read more in English.

Jason Aaron has erected a website to his cousin with texts of all the novels and much more.  For the next death anniversary Viet Nam Literature Project will review the criticism.

Viet Nam Literature Project blogs about our encyclopedia, our comics and translations as we develop our university program. Donors receive our print newsletter and annual comic book.

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Nguyen Chi Thien

Click for the Nguyen Chi Thien page at VNLP.

Our first writer for the year that starts on Monday is the poet Nguyen Chi Thien.  Thien was the first writer we ever published.

The first guest at Tet reflects the aspirations of a household.  Read about Thien in Jonathan Hill’s strip for Viet Nam Literature Comics.

Read our selection from Nguyen Ngoc Bich’s translations of Thien’s prison poems.   See Thien’s own account of his life for Viet Nam Literature Project.

Click for Jonathan Hill’s Viet Nam Literature Comic of Nguyen Chi Thien in prison.

Thien’s life and work embody the theme of all the literatures of Viet Nam.  We read and write to live beyond illusion.

‘Real life is like a hospital.
They ply you with such bitter drugs
yet cannot cure you of two ills:
forever you have caught desire and hope.’

Viet Nam Literature Project blogs about our encyclopedia, our comics and translations as we develop our university program. Donors receive our print newsletter and annual comic book.

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