Rotating Back to the World examines the fiction of world-renowned award-winning Vietnam War veteran Tim O’Brien. In this interdisciplinary study, James McKenzie investigates O’Brien’s complex narrative representations of war trauma and their diverse symptomology. Through a series of close readings of O’Brien’s four “Vietnam War novels”, the study provides a detailed analysis of the connection between trauma and war in order to investigate how O’Brien’s literary depictions can reveal knowledge about the very real psychological wounds of combat service and how they affect the mind and body of the individual and the wider social psyche.
In particular, McKenzie pays attention to O’Brien’s ludic art of story-telling and his narratological experimentation as a means of depicting the paradoxical relationship in which the trauma survivor is caught between the competing desires of giving voice to the full impact of traumatic combat experience whilst struggling with the seemingly insurmountable challenge of expressing the “inexpressible”.
James McKenzie is a former infantry soldier and currently senior lecturer in Anglophone Literature at University of Hildesheim.