1979 -- Going After Cacciato

In a 1984 interview, O'Brien tried to distinguish between his first book, If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home (1973), and his third, Going After Cacciato. Though fictional in some of its techniques, If I Die is autobiographical, a day-in-the-life memoir of O’Brien’s year in Vietnam. Going After Cacciato is a novel, and “the flip side of If I Die. That is, in Cacciato the premise I started with was, what if I had deserted?” Ultimately, he said in interviews, the second book is not even about that kind of war, and more a peace-finding mission:

I try to make both sides of it as convincing as I can, roughly because that’s how it was in my experience. On the one hand, “God, I sure should walk away from this war—hey, it’s wrong, it’s a wrong war, it’s evil.” I felt guilty. But the other half was saying, “God, you can’t do that, you’ve got everything else to think about. What if I am a coward? What about family? You’ve gone this far, you’re obliged to go the rest of the way.” It’s that sense of war that I’m trying to get at…. Internal war, personal war.

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