Bảo Ninh

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Bảo Ninh
BornHoàng Ấu Phương
(1952-10-18) October 18, 1952 (age 68)
Nghệ An, Vietnam
  • Novelist
  • essayist
  • short story writer
GenreMemoirs, war stories, short stories
Years active1990–present
Military career
Allegiance North Vietnam
Service/branchFlag of the People's Army of Vietnam.svg Vietnam People's Army
Years of service1969–1975
UnitGlorious 27th Youth Brigade
Battles/warsVietnam War

Hoàng Ấu Phương, also known by the pen name Bảo Ninh (born 18 October 1952), is a Vietnamese novelist, essayist and writer of short stories, best known for his first novel, published in English as The Sorrow of War.[1]

Vietnam war[edit]

Ninh recounted that American bombing raids during the Vietnam War, beginning in 1965 when he was 12-13, destroyed ordinary people's homes and upended their lives. Ninh stated that his own school in Hanoi was relocated as a result of the bombing, which inspired him to anger rather than fear.[2][3] Ninh stated that Americans entering Vietnam were viewed as no different from earlier French colonizers, and that he inherited this view himself from his parents.[2]

During the war Ninh served in the Glorious 27th Youth Brigade, joining when he was 17 years old.[2] He stated that the Vietnamese people who fought against the Americans were not specifically fighting for Marxism, but rather fighting to bring peace for their country.[2] Hunger was a frequent problem for Ninh and his fellow soldiers, who often moved back and forth from their homes to the battlefields. Of the five hundred who went to war with the brigade in 1969, Ninh is one of ten who survived.

Ninh described the fear caused among Vietnamese soldiers by American airpower while in combat during the war:

"While the bombs were falling, only a stone wouldn't be terrified. If the Americans noticed movement in the forest, they would eliminate the forest. Who knows how much money was spent? American taxpayers' money. If a cluster of napalm bombs were dropped, the jungle would turn into a sea of fire. Can you imagine a sea of fire?"

— Bảo Ninh[2]

Ninh later called the war "fratricide" fueled by American firepower. "In war, no one wins or loses. There is only destruction."[3]


In 1987, Bảo Ninh published Trại bảy chú lùn (Camp of Seven Dwarves), a collection of short stories. He has also written a second novel, Steppe, but is said to be reluctant to publish it.[4]

In 2018, in an interview with The Caravan magazine, Ninh said that "it's not a good time to publish a novel in Vietnam," when asked about his reluctance to publish further. The article shed light on his troubles dealing with his wartime past and censorship in Vietnam, more than forty years after the fall of Saigon.[5]

A short story by Bảo Ninh, "A Marker on the Side of the Boat" (Khắc dấu mạn thuyền), translated by Linh Dinh, is included in the anthology Night, Again.

Bảo Ninh is also a successful essayist. He is interviewed in Ken Burns's series The Vietnam War.


  • The Sorrow of War - 1990
  • Hanoi At No Time - 2003
  • Rambling while stuck in traffic - 2005
  • Are old stories true? - 2009
  • Selected writings - 2011
  • Short story - 2013


  1. ^ Christina Schwenkel The American War in Contemporary Vietnam 2009 p.63,"In contemporary literature, popular novels by Dương Thu Hương (1996), Nguyễn Huy Thiệp (1992), and Bảo Ninh (1993) have contributed to an emerging genre that challenges revolutionary heroism and explores the bleakness and hardships of war rather than its glories."
  2. ^ a b c d e Burns, Ken. "The Vietnam War". American Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b Ward, Geoffrey (2017). The Vietnam War: An Intimate History. Afred A. Knopf. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  4. ^ Goldenberg, Suzanne (2006-11-19). "Why Vietnam's best-known author has stayed silent". The Observer. Archived from the original on 6 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-05.
  5. ^ Inani, Rohit (2021-05-28). "The Long Silence of Bao Ninh" (Originally published in The Caravan). Counterpunch. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  • Palmos, Frank, Ridding the Devils, Bantam, Sydney, London 1990. ISBN 0947189599