(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Safer welcomed the opportunity to return to Vietnam in January of 1989 to observe at firsthand how the country had fared after the American evacuation and the fall of the Saigon government in 1975. He began his journey in Hanoi and concluded it in Ho Chi Minh City eight days later, visiting Danang and Hue en route. Along the way he documented his impressions in a journal; FLASHBACKS is the result.

Safer writes concisely with an experienced journalist’s eye for detail and sense of human interest. His VIP status got him an interview with General Vo Nguyen Giap, the strategist who engineered first the defeat of the French in Indo-China and then of the American in South Vietnam. Giap, a hard man nearly eighty years old, answers Safer’s questions by quoting Ho Chi Minh but concedes that the B-52 raids were effective and very painful for his troops. He expresses no twinge of conscience or pity for exposing them to the saturation bombing.

More interesting are Safer’s interviews with common soldiers in the North, the amputees at the Thuan Thanh Institute, for example, who give clear evidence of the damage wrought by the B-52’s, or Professor Nguyen Ngoc Hung of the Foreign Language Institute, who was drafted out of graduate school in 1968 and sent south, or Bui Tin, a retired colonel of the People’s Army of Vietnam, who assures Safer that his soldiers won the war because they had a cause, whereas their American counterparts were only acting...

(The entire section is 446 words.)