Hà Nội and Midnight delineates the complex outpourings of war and the way it remakes our relation to each other.
Bảo Ninh’s stories accentuate the gamut of human emotions: nostalgia, anguish, desolation, melancholy, poignancy, and hope. His stories wistfully render pre-war Hà Nội, its peaceful alleys and streets, its courteous residents, and the cozy atmosphere when family members, neighbors, and friends gather around a fire or converse in a coffee shop, as in “Hà Nội at Midnight” and in “Reminiscences.”
Juxtaposed with this tranquility and geniality are the abandoned areas and defoliated forests occasioned by American bombardment and the American use of Agent Orange, as in “An Unnamed Star” and “A Farewell to a Soldier’s Life.” Images of polluted rivers and streams, the war-torn sky, the pungent air filled with the stench of decomposing human corpses, and the deafening roar of helicopters and bombers hovering in the gloomy sky dominate the settings of Bảo Ninh’s stories.
Intertwined with these horrific images are human tears shed during farewell ceremonies, when recruits are separated from their loved ones, when parents live in anxiety and hope at home while their children are fighting in a war in remote regions, and when soldiers bury their comrades and burden themselves with their fallen comrades’ unfulfilled wishes.