Rafe Buenrostro, Rolando Hinojosa’s autobiographical character in this third installment of the Klail City series, steps outside the cultural context in which readers were first introduced to him in two earlier novels, Sketches of the Valley, and Other Works and Klail City: A Novel. Because this story is removed from Rafe’s accustomed Tex-Mex environment with its bilingual-bicultural atmosphere, Hinojosa wrote it in English rather than Spanish.
Korean Love Songs from Klail City Death Trip is a daring book. The first half consists of a series of poems, mostly in free verse, that recount the horrors of combat in which Rafe is involved. A bitter irony pervades the poems. Juxtaposed to mass destruction one finds a fragmented, small-minded military bureaucracy that seems, at times, bent on making the last days of military men under dire threat as miserable as it can, all in the name of maintaining discipline.
“Chinaman’s Hat (Hill 329)” focuses on soldiers who run from enemy fire, abandoning their weapons in the field. As an object lesson, the high command decrees that the 88th Field Battalion, for its “own good and discipline,” be forced to march back under guard to retrieve its abandoned weapons. This poem captures the terror of war, demonstrating the inability of officers to command their troops to hold fast in the face of almost certain death.
Enlisted men, deaf to the commands of their...
(The entire section is 472 words.)