The things they carried – the third book on experiences after a year of fighting (1969-1970) of the Alpha company in the Central Highlands of Tim O’Brien, just published by the Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt republished more than 2 million copies for the 20th anniversary of its founding in 2010. The book contains 22 related small stories before, during and after the war, a mixture of imagination and The truth. The reader feels “confused”: an unordered, non-principle presentation, like the brutal nature of war full of emotions. It is all about real damage, both imagination and reality, as well as the memory of the author, as well as a commentary on the war experiences and heavy mental consequences that followed.
What they brought was selected in the collection of America’s Best Short Stories in 1987, America’s Best Short Stories of the 1980s, into the Pulitzer Prize Finalists for the 1991 novel, and then the list of award winners. Award for national book critic of the same year. Many American soldiers who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan brought with them what they brought, so when they returned, they said “you wrote what I thought was not true” about the war.
Twice a week, when the helicopter arrived, they brought hot food in green mermite cans, then large canvas bags filled with beer and chilled soda.
They carried plastic containers with water, each with a capacity of 2 gallons. Mitchell Sanders wears a camouflage suit for special occasions. Henry Dobbins carries the Black Flag insecticide. Dave Jensen brought empty sandbags, and at night he could stuff sand in to make his personal fortification even safer. Lee Strunk brings tanning lotion. There are some things they carry together.
Take turns, they carry the huge PRC-77 satellite radio, weighing 30 pounds including batteries. They both bear the burden of memories. They take what others cannot carry. Often they carry each other, the injured or the weak. They carry infectious germs. They carried a chess board, a basketball, Vietnamese – English dictionary, rank badges, Silver Star and Purple Heart medals, a plastic card on which printed military rules.
They carry the disease, among which malaria and dysentery. They carry lice and worms and leeches and copper algae, and many molds. They bring this very country – Vietnam, this place, this land – a fine orange-red dirt covered with boots and their faces. They bring the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carry it, moisture, monsoon winds, the smell of mold and decay, all, they bring the attraction of the earth. They go like mules. During the day they were sniped, at night they were ripped with mortar shells, but that was not a battle but an endless march, village to village, without purpose, with nothing to lose.
They march just to march. They trudged slowly, innocently, crouched forward in the heat, not thinking, full of blood and bones, pointing to the kneeling soldiers, fighting with their feet, peeking up the hill, huddling down the river and across the river. up and down again and again, one step and one step and then another step, but undesirable, unintentional, because it is automatic, it is only anatomical mechanism, and this battle is completely It’s just a matter of posture, a matter of carrying, carrying is everything, an inertia, an empty thing, a stubbornness about the thirst for conscience knowledge about hope about your child’s sensitivity. people.
Their principle is in their feet. Their calculations are purely biological. They have no sense of strategy or mission. They searched the villages without knowing what they were looking for, never minded, kicked jars of rice, teased children with the elderly, cleared the tunnels, sometimes set fire sometimes, and then assembled a formation. and on his way to the next village, then the other villages, which are already always the same. They bring their own lives. The pressure is great.
In the midday heat, they took off their helmets, took off their coats, walked barefoot, which was dangerous but relieved. They often throw away belongings on the march. Purely for comfort, they threw away food, blasted Claymore and grenades, it was okay, because when it got dark the resupply helicopters would come and bring many of the same, then one or two days and more, fresh watermelons and cartridges of sunglasses and sweaters – an amazing supply – the sparklers for July 4 national day, Easter eggs – It was a great safe of war America – the fruit of science, chimneys, canned factories, ammunition stores in Hartford, Minnesota forests, machine shops, fields. wheat cobs flutter – they carry like freight trains.
They carry it on their backs on their shoulders – and despite all the vague vague of Vietnam, all the mysteries and the unknown, there is always at least one perpetual certainty that they will never be lost. I don’t know what to bring …
… Almost always they bring themselves with composure, a dignified dignity. However, sometimes there were moments of panic, when they screamed or wanted to scream but could not shout, they writhed and wailed and covered their heads and said to God and went on the ground and scattered bullets like blinds and cringed and whimpering and begging for the noise please stop giving and go crazy and promise yourself stupid promises to God to mother to father, may I not die.
In different ways, this happens to all of them. Then, when the shooting ended, they would blink again. They will touch their bodies again, feel ashamed, and then quickly hide them. They will force themselves to stand up again. As in slow-motion movies, frame by frame, the world will take on the same logic – absolute silence, then wind, then sunshine, then voices.
That was a burden when we were still alive. Clumsily, the people will fix themselves, first one by one, then in groups, becoming soldiers again. They will fix the leaks in their eyes. They will check to see how the casualties are, call on helicopters, light cigarettes, try to smile, clear their spit, and start wiping weapons.
After a while someone would shake his head and say: No lie, I almost shit in my pants, and another will laugh, which means it’s bad, but obviously the other guy didn’t shit in his pants, It’s not that bad, and no matter what anyone else did, they went out to tell everyone. They will squint their eyes at the dense, dazzling sunlight.
For a moment, perhaps, they would be silent, light up an opium and watch it pass from one person to another, sniffing it, holding it embarrassingly ashamed. This thing is frightening, one would say. But then someone else will grin and raise their eyebrows and say: Fuck it, I’m missing a new asshole, a little bit more.
There are many such postures. Some carry themselves with a gloomy doomed, others with pride or rigid military discipline or heroic humor or enthusiasm. They are afraid of death but even more afraid of showing that they are afraid of death …
… They carry the entire emotional baggage of those who may die. Pain, terror, love, expectation – they are invisible, but invisible things have their own mass and gravity, they have a weight that can be recognized by the body. They carry humiliating memories. They carry the common secret of cowardice that is hard to suppress, instinct to flee or freeze or hide, and in many ways this is the heaviest burden, because it can never be put down, it demands Ask for the perfect balance and perfect posture. They carry their reputation.
They carry the greatest fear of the soldier, the fear of blushing. People are killed, and dead, because they are embarrassed if they are not. That was the first thing that brought them to this war, not something positive, not a dream of glory or honor, just to avoid the embarrassment of losing honor. They die so they don’t have to die from embarrassment. They crawled into the tunnel and headed directly under fire. Every morning, wearing the unknown, they forced their feet to move. They endure. They keep moving forward.
They refused to let go of the second way even though it touched it, so they closed their eyes and collapsed. Easy, really. Go on and stumble and fall on the ground and let your muscles fall apart and say nothing, don’t stir until your comrades come to pick us up and take us to the helicopter and the helicopter will roar Come on and bring us back to the world. Just fall, but no one falls. Actually it is not courage, here is not what courage. Rather, they were too afraid of being a coward.
They generally carry those things inside, maintaining the calm and leisurely mask. They laugh when the gas before the sick leave. They said bitter words about the boys who were let go by shooting off their toes and fingers. Chicken dead, they say. You atrophy. It was a fierce, disdainful way of saying, just a little jealous or respectful, but even so, that image still showed in their eyes.
They imagine the barrel of a gun pressed against meat. So easy: pull the trigger, fly a toe. They envision it. They imagined the pain quickly, sweetly, and then the rescue flight to Japan, and the hotel with warm blankets and nice geisha nurses.
And they dream of free birds.