NOTHING, AND SO BE IT: A Personal Search for Meaning in War by Oriana Fallaci

NOTHING, AND SO BE IT: A Personal Search for Meaning in War

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By the time they are old enough to be reporters, it has already occurred to most people that war is cruel and men can be bestial; the question becomes one of cause and remedy. Miss Fallaci, however, confines herself to the most degradingly personal and immediate reactions in this description of her Vietnam tours as an Italian correspondent, and in the process she proves that being on the spot is no guarantee of illuminating historical events. She was there from November 1967 through the spring of 1968 and endured a good deal of danger. She saw Dak To, interviewed prisoners, tried to help save a burning monk, clashed with Barry Zorthian, went along on bombing missions, survived the chaos of Tet and the ordeals of May. Francois Pelou, the Agence France Presse chief, whom she reveres, provides the only political commentary in the book -- a bogus tough-guy variety which can't distinguish Ky's adventuristic right-wing radicalism from the NLF's. The most valuable parts of the book center around police chief Loan, with whom Pelou sustained a quirky friendship; Fallaci interviews him, finds him a surpassingly ugly man professing devotion to beauty and acknowledging that the NLF is ""the same kind of Resistance you had in Europe."" Later he is wounded, weeps over a card with Jesus on it, explains to her his excuse for shooting a prisoner and his reason for arresting Tri Quang (to protect him), and reveals that he, Loan, used to fight with the Viet Minh. When a journalist is killed either by Cholon Chinese or the Viet Cong, Fallaci decides that the latter are ""beasts like their enemies. . . Loan isn't so guilty after all."" Apart from Loan, the message of the book is so rendered: ""slaughtered for the sake of a flag"". . . . ""Why must people always soil what is beautiful?"". . . . ""the idiocy of the human race"". . . . ""God, why do men do these things?"". . . . ""War is a madhouse"". . . . ""Truth is a matter of opinion"" and, providing her own reductio ad absurdum, ""if you set values, you justify those who butcher""; but no one and everyone is responsible as ""Saigon was destroying itself,"" and the Mexico City massacre of 1968 simply proves again that ""men are like that."" Voyeurism and moralism -- a kind of hypercharged personal reportage.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1971
Publisher: Doubleday