A German Reader

A young woman in Germany has been reading my books and contacts me periodically to give me feedback. She is a poet and fascinated by Vietnam—one of her poems is about the Tet Offensive, another about the siege at Khe Sanh. I find her poetry, even in less than idiomatic translation, to be quite moving. She sends me the German texts, too. I speak German but know very little poetry in German beyond Rilke. Reading it aloud makes me think it is quite good. The language is musical.

The young lady has just read the first one hundred pages of Last of the Annamese and showed great insight in her comments. She noted that the story is really the narrative of what I went through during the fall of Saigon. She pointed out that the loss of a son recurs in my writing. The theme ripples through Friendly Casualties, and the redemption of the father by the son is a major part of the story in The Trion Syndrome.

I’m intrigued that a reader whose native language is not English can cope with the odd usages in Annamese. So much of the dialogue is American military slang, and the exchanges between the protagonist, Chuck, who is a retired Marine officer, and his housemate Ike, an active duty Marine officer, use Marine lingo with no explanation. Granted, I included some of the more arcane terms, like “splib” and “gunji,” in the glossary of acronyms and slang at the end of the book. Even so, I admire this lady’s sticktoitiveness and tolerance for the vulgar language. I’m enormously complimented.

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