Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fou for Phuong


I finished Bao Ninh's The Sorrow of War / The Destiny of Love. It sticks. Want to or not, I'm thinking about it, dreaming at night of the Vietnamese setting. Scenes of American air attacks on trains and train stations are riveting. The chaotic structure is coherent by the end. Bao Ninh (real name Hoàng Ấu Phương) uses, especially near the conclusion, the device of a narrator who finds a manuscript scrawled by the main character, Kien. The narrator muses on "the manuscript," which implicitly evolves into the core of Bao Ninh's novel:

At first I tried to rearrange the manuscript pages into chronological order, to make [it] read like the sort of book I was familiar with. But it was useless. There was no chronological order at all. Any page seemed like the first, any page could have been the last . . .

One became immersed in each sequence, each page. Sometimes the descriptions were compelling. The long-forgotten name of a once-familiar battlefield moved me. The close-up fighting, the small details of the soldiers' lives. The images of former colleagues appearing for just a moment, yet so clearly. The flow of the story continually changed. From beginning to end the novel consisted of blocks of images . . .


Intertwined throughout, the mysteries and attendant agonies of the amour fou ("crazy love") tormenting Kien and Phuong play out; by the end, the reader comes to a better understanding of what's transpired between them before, during and after the war.

While I finished reading the novel at the Greensboro Airport yesterday afternoon, three middle aged guys in camouflage uniforms sat around nearby, talking about having to go back to Iraq. Here was art, and there was life repeating it for another generation-- right in front of my eyes.

Today's Rune: Fertility.

5 comments:

Pythia3 said...

It never ceases to amaze me when the simplest every day details line up in perfect order at the perfect time and form a 'coincidence,' that parallels the state of our mind and being.
Did that scene play out just for you as life/art/life, or did you actually SEE it due to your heightened state of awareness?
Of course, it was the latter of the two...which makes the point of the power of awareness.
The POWER of AWARENESS.
We need more of that during these times.
Your review of the book has intrigued me and moved me - I need to write it down now for my procrastination sabotages me every time.

Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, life repeating art. And art life.

Luma said...

Some souvenirs are perpetual and will load for all the life. We can invent a tomb, mainly for bad things as the wars, but they are there, is enough to exhume! Beijus

Lana Gramlich said...

Very interesting! I have to say, when I first laid eyes on the subject line, my first reaction was "what'd you call me?" Born under the sign of the smart ass, I guess...

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks all for the AWARE comments -- much appreciated -- Lana, I pretty much thought the same thing writing it ;)