Trauma e memoria in “The Refugees” di Viet Thanh Nguyen


  • Mirella Vallone



American Studies, Viet Thanh Nguyen, trauma, memory, war


Starting from Viet Thanh Nguyen’s claim that all wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory, the paper aims to analyze the author’s investigation of the trauma of the Vietnam War on the refugees and the generation after in his short-story collection, The Refugees (2017).

Regarding the conflicting memories of the war, Nguyen’s critical and literary works search for a just memory that recalls the past in a way that does justice to the forgotten, the excluded, the oppressed, the dead, and the ghosts. He calls for a complex ethics of memory that draws attention to the life cycle of memories, their industrial production, and how they evolve and change. According to the author, art is central to this ethical work because, at its best, it resists power and war.

In The Refugees, Nguyen deconstructs the trope of “the good refugee” and the myth of “the nation of refuge,” created by Americans to cope with the “difficult memory” of the Vietnam War, highlighting how the interweaving of war, violence, and power have compelled Vietnamese to forced dislocation, making their lives ones haunted by the losses and specters of the past. In the manner theorized by Avery Gordon, the ghosts, specters, and shadowy identities that people Nguyen’s stories are the spectral trace of unresolved social injustices.

The discontinuity of trauma and its problematic legacy are examined in stories that focus on intergenerational relationships and invite readers to ethically listen to the voices coming from “the crying wound.”


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