I introduced Linh Dinh‘s ferocious, touching, painfully autobiographical essay “Corpses in Ocean” as follows:
As my Vietnam veteran VT colleagues can attest, that atrociously bloody war seemed totally pointless at the time. (Almost as pointless as destroying the Middle East for Israel today.) But now, looking back with pride, we can reflect that had we not made such heroic efforts to save ‘Nam from the Godless commies, Linh Dinh would probably never have written in English. So, quoting Madeleine Albright, “we think the price was worth it.”
In this interview Linh elaborates on “Corpses in Ocean”:
“This last piece was very painful to write because it involves my two-year-old nephew. The fact that he’s in a very difficult situation is intolerable. And I’m very angry and sad because I’m impotent. I can’t do anything about it now, because I don’t have access to him.
“The article raises so many issues, not just personal ones: the Vietnam war, its repercussions…my mother-in-law is very angry. She’s had a horrible life because of the war. Her husband was in a reeducation camp for thirteen years. She lost her business. She could barely survive with her young children. There’s all this frustration, all this anger. And for the longest time there was tremendous desperation to escape Vietnam.”
Linh himself grew up in the USA, became a talented and celebrated writer, but finally had to escape back to Vietnam. Why? Mainly because his honesty on various matters, including 9/11, made him unemployable and unwelcome on the American literary circuit.
The interview touches on the emptiness and vulgar materialism of contemporary American and Vietnamese culture; the inevitability of racial and ethnic nationalism; the problem of market-dominant minorities including the Chinese in Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and the Jews in North America and Europe; and other non-mainstream topics.