Nothing Ever Dies, Viet Thanh Nguyen writes. All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory. From the author of the bestselling novel The Sympathizer comes a searching exploration of a conflict that lives on in the collective memory of both the Americans and the Vietnamese.
Vietnam-born, American-raised Nguyen (The Sympathizer), an associate professor of English and American Studies at the University of Southern California, sifts through the many guises of memory and identity in this eloquent, scholarly narrative of the Vietnam War's psychological impact on combatants and civilians. The Vietnamese who fled the battlefields have little choice but to be known by the carnage that brought them to the U.S. They grapple with their own painful memories, which shadow them or get pushed aside, while their descendants try to cope with elders refusing to share their recollections. Nguyen peruses death and destruction from multiple vantage points, including the killing caves where Vietnamese civilians were annihilated by American bombers and the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. But this is primarily a work that comes to grips with memory and identity through the arts. Where literature and film have long been dominated by American works, Nguyen brilliantly introduces a pantheon of artists, including directors Dang Nhat Minh and Bui Thac Chuyen, and writers Le Ly Hayslip and Monique Truong. This is a difficult but rewarding read; Nguyen succeeds in delivering a potent critique of the war and revealing what the memories of living have meant for the identities of the next generation.