This review of “Nothing Ever Dies” appears in the summer 2016 edition of Harvard University’s Radcliffe Magazine.
While Viet Thanh Nguyen’s stirring argument for a new ethics of war and remembrance relies on his extensive exploration of the relevant literature (a 20-page bibliography offers an excellent reading list), this book’s power derives from Nguyen’s own eloquent testimony as a witness to the effects of the war Americans call “Vietnam” and the Vietnamese call “the American War.” Nguyen describes how both names are reductive, leaving out the many other nations involved in and affected by the conflict and ignoring the century-long lead-up to what by the 1960s had become an inevitable result of “the steady drone of a war machine’s ever-ongoing preparations.”
It is past time for a new pacifism, more nuanced and wiser than “Make love, not war” or “Out now! Out now!” yet with the same insistence on an end to killing and destruction in the name of world peace or regional stability. Nothing Ever Dies could be the bible of this new movement.