Lowell Tollefson spent his youth in Southeast Asia and East Asia, an experience that informs his depiction of the regions and its people. Tollefson, a former college philosophy professor, is the author of a book of poetry, Vietnam War Elegy, and a collection of essays, What is War? He served as a United States Marine during the Vietnam War.
His latest book, Season of Mists (LLT Press, 90 pp., $5.50, paper; $0.99, Kindle), is a short novel written from the enemy’s perspective. The main character is a Vietnamese peasant who joins the Viet Cong. His name is Nguyen Duc Thuy. This book is over hardly before it has begun. I would have liked it to have been twice as long.
We are told that the Viet Cong seek to “make the great American military machine feel the weight of its over encumbrance.” Certainly the stripped-down fighting methods of the VC, who traveled fast and light, were in serious contrast to the Americans who oftentimes moved around the war zone with all the stealth of a marching band.
The novel is long enough to communicate that the main character’s love of family and land give him the strength and will to persist until the cursed foreigners have withdrawn. We see the horrifying suffering that peasants endured during the war. We also see why America with all its might failed to affect the hearts of the Vietnamese people to give up on their goal—to get their country back from the latest in a series of what they saw as invaders.
I highly recommend this novel—especially to those who have tired of reading American novels and memoirs that contend that we didn’t lose that war against little Vietnamese people who lived in rude huts and used animals to farm rather than tractors. When high technology is launched against low technology, high technology is in serious peril.
The Viet Cong had millions of acres of free bamboo to build bridges. Those bridges cost us millions to bomb to oblivion. But oblivion only lasted a few hours, and the bridges were back in place.
The American war in Vietnam is a textbook example of how a war can be lost if political and military leaders fail to understand the enemy. Read this book to find out what the enemy was like on the ground. Tollefson does an amazing job of getting into the minds and hearts of the enemy and making them human.