Though Ho Anh Thai was born a decade earlier, in 1960, this reflects something of his own experience, growing up in the aftermath of a war that was central to his parents' lives. Also exploring that generational divide is "Fragment of a Man", in which the narrator's mother fails to come to terms with her husband's death as a pilot. In "The Chase" some young men attempting to be fashionable are hunted down and humiliated by enforcers of social conformity. And there are two fantastic stories: in "The Goat Meat Special" the protagonist's boss is transformed into a goat after watching a magically pornographic television, while in "The Man Who Believed in Fairy Tales" the narrator wakes up to find he has been transformed into an American.
Five of the stories are set in India, where Ho Anh Thai studied and worked. In "The Indian" a man who carries his mother's bones everywhere has an affair with a British woman, while "The Barter" is about a German student who goes native. In "The Man Who Stood on One Leg" an ascetic takes on modernity, "A Sigh Through the Laburnums" is a not terribly subtle but haunting depiction of the life of a destitute woman, and "Leaving the Valley" explores the broad religious and social setting.
There's nothing too complicated about Ho Anh Thai's style, at least in this translation, or ideas, which extend to gentle satire, a bit of surrealism and a sharp eye for character and contingency, but neither is there any trace of moralising or didacticism or plodding. Behind the Red Mist is an engaging collection which offers different perspectives on both Vietnam and India.
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