The Legacy of War: Vietnamese Literature’s Examination of Trauma

Prior to the release of The Sympathizer, Vietnam seemed like a faraway land with mysterious people whom you could not trust. Mother’s Legacy is an allegory of our nation centered around two dead fathers’ dispersed children.

Kien, the main character Kien, moves through several different time zones and chapters to show how gothic warfare alters the notion of time.


During this renewal period, Vietnamese literature strove for an aesthetic and ethical coherence with its social and political environment. For the first time in literature female authors are exploding. The feminine sensibility of their writings brought fresh vitality to poetry and prose. Women resent the social norms based on gender and embrace the graphic depictions of the atrocities and wars, in addition to the psychology of domestic life.

An example is Bao Phi’s novel Catfish and Mandala, a narrative about a girl who flees Vietnam in the early 1990s and struggles to make sense of her war-damaged parents and herself. This spare, lyrical novel, written in the style of a spoken word slam champion and graduate from Wallace Stegner’s Stanford writing program, is a highly collectible.

Other themes are isolation as well as alienation, dislocation and isolation; dealing with the complexity of generations and cultures as well as loss of identity. Particularly important are topics of trauma and sorrow like that brought about by the doubly traumatic event of rape. Gina Marie Weaver examines the concept of forgetting in the novels of Bao and Duong.

Doi Moi economic reforms literature

When the war was over, Vietnam stepped into a new process of reform. Doi Moi was the name of this phase, which saw Vietnam remove self-imposed obstacles to progress and strive to rectify an autarchy-style economic system that wasn’t working. This was done by introducing markets-oriented systems, and increasing exports.

The time also saw an alteration in the focus of literature. Writing was no longer a reflection of patrioticism and embraced a new approach that was based on the human condition, universal values, and an open-minded view of reality. This was particularly true for women writers, whose femininity brought new energy into the literature of this revival process.

Le Ly Hayslip’s novel, When Heaven and Earth changed Places, is probably the best illustration. The novel tells the tale of a girl who is caught between pro- and anti-communist elements in her village. The book wowed readers with its authentic portrayal of postwar unrest and foibles of a new Vietnamese administration.

Vietnamese war literature

Many works on Vietnam were published and some have been recognized as literary works. The works in this category deal with complex war-related issues and attempt to present its brutal reality along with its contradictory moral ramifications.

They include autobiographies novels, memoirs and other pieces of literature that detail the life of American troops during their time in Vietnam. The works also illustrate the cultural gap in American and Vietnamese culture. Certain have been described as iconic while others have outdated.

The most well-known pieces of this kind of writing are poetry and memoirs by Michael O’Donnell and Tim O’Brien. The memoirs and poetry explore the grimness of war, and the effects it has on soldiers. They also call for peace and reconciliation, as well as the need for peace in the nation. These books have had an enormous impact on our understanding of the Vietnam conflict. Writings by these authors are helping to heal the wounds of this conflict.

Vietnamese modern Pham Ho writers

Modern Vietnamese writers took on Western science and philosophy and writing became an increasingly intellectual and rational pursuit. Southern writers began to use more industrial West elements such as globes, photos, railroads and posts ferrous bridges (including railways) electrical lights as well as ships. Printing equipment was also utilized as well as magazines and newspapers.

The revolution of literature in the North was much more dramatic. In 1933, a tiny girl named Nguyen Thi Kim presented a lecture about literature for an audience at the Association for the Promotion of Learning. She criticized the traditional poetic styles, which had strict regulations prevented the honest expression of contemporary experiences. The traditional poetry as well as the new began a two-year battle of printed words involving individuals as well as the press.