MOURNING HEADBAND FOR HUE by Nhã Ca

MOURNING HEADBAND FOR HUE

An Account of the Battle for Hue, Vietnam 1968
by , translated by

KIRKUS REVIEW

Anguished eyewitness account of the devastation visited upon the civilian Vietnamese population just a month before the massacre of My Lai.

The author was a well-known South Vietnamese poet and novelist then living with her husband and children in Saigon. She was caught in the middle of the Vietcong’s Tet Offensive in early 1968 when she received news that her father had just died and promptly traveled to her native town of Hue, in central Vietnam, for the burial service. The next day, the Communists shelled the Buddhist town, terrorizing the population and waging horrific battles with the combined South Vietnamese Nationalist and American forces over many weeks. The author’s narrative burns with firsthand accounts, her own and those of others who shared their stories, as they all were trapped in blasted houses, churches and makeshift shelters, wounded, starving, sick and overrun by the Communists and their squads of vengeful executioners. In an extensive introduction, the translator of this important work, first published in 1969, just over a year after the horrific events it chronicles, sets up the significance of the large-scale Tet Offensive for the Vietcong, who hoped the South Vietnamese would rise up and support them; the Communists were eventually driven back by the Nationalists and the Americans, leaving thousands dead and unaccounted for. Yet the author’s work speaks for itself; it’s a searing first-person account of the misery of war visited upon her family, neighbors and countrymen, caught in senseless, chaotic horror. The author does not portray the Americans as saviors; rather, in her narrative, they are young, clueless and, in many instances, scornful of this “small yellow-skinned nation” they know little about and so calloused to the sanctity of life that they amuse themselves by shooting at dogs.

A visceral reminder of war’s intimate slaughter.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-253-01417-7
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Indiana Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2014




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