Truth, Lies and Horse Operas: Myth and Cliché in The Literature of The Vietnam War

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My novel, The Outside Lands, is set in 1960s San Francisco, during the Vietnam War. Siblings Kip and Jeannie Jackson are set adrift when their mother dies in an accident; Kip enlists to fight in Vietnam, and Jeannie joins an anti-war group that isn’t what it seems. I’m not American—I’m British—and I was born after the end of Vietnam War. I’m often asked about the challenge of writing about a time and place with which I have no direct connection; and whether, as a woman, it was difficult to write about a young man’s experience of war. But the central challenge of writing this novel wasn’t that I’m British woman in her thirties; it was navigating the wealth of cliché associated with a war that has been the subject of so many representations in film, television, and print. We can all summon up images of the war—platoons wading through rice paddies, Hueys choppering over misty hills, napalm blazing the jungle, straw huts burning. The challenge was to navigate these clichés and get away from rehearsed portrayals of the war.

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Author: Zafar Anjum

I am a writer based in Singapore.

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