The Other Side of Hell

A North Vietnamese soldier's novel about the pain and disillusionment of war becomes an international hit

IN A SMALL THREE-ROOM APARTMENT in Hanoi's already crumbling New Quarter, Vietnam's most famous living author sits in a sweaty white shirt and dark blue polyester pants, his feet bare. Outside, most of Hanoi is celebrating Reunification Day. Giant posters glorify Ho Chi Minh and the 1954 defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu. The bright red national flag hangs above shop doors. Fireworks sound over Small Lake. In years past, Bao Ninh used to spend this day with the surviving members of his unit. "Not now," he says. "We've had enough of it."

So has almost everyone else. Nineteen...

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