Since August of last year, when I snapped this picture and shared it on my Instagram account telling readers that this is one book they won’t want to miss, I’ve been telling anyone who would listen about the upcoming Redeployment by Phil Klay. Earlier that day, I’d been brought to tears in a pedicure chair within the first 20 pages, an admittedly odd position to be caught reading war fiction. By the end of the night the book was finished.
Redeployment, and war literature in general, is not my standard reading fare, but I trusted an editor’s recommendation and discovered a book that is so much more than I had expected it to be. Author Phil Klay takes a look at all of the lives touched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—families, children, soldiers, and those who will find a veteran in their lives years after their deployment has ended. Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos.
Author and veteran Phil Klay has delivered something truly remarkable in his debut, and when asked, was happy to share his thoughts on war literature, and some of the key works in the genre for us.
The following content has been taken from an Interview with Shelf Awareness:
War literature has been its own special genre for some time now. What are some novels or stories you feel are authentic and valuable and worth recommending to readers?
I don’t know if authenticity is always the first thing I’m looking for in literature, war related or otherwise. I wouldn’t call The Iliad an authentic portrait of the Trojan War any more than I’d call Richard III an authentic portrait of late 15th century English politics. Hasek’s WWI novel The Good Soldier Svejk isn’t particularly interested in being realistic, so I don’t know how it fares on the question of authenticity, but it does have the virtue of being incredibly good. I’d like to think my book is authentic. I did a lot of research and talked to a lot of vets in order to get things as right as I could, but my ultimate aim was to do more than just achieve some kind of verisimilitude.
I’ll say this. Reading Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim was important to me and it informed my thinking while writing this book. That’s not really a war book, though. Then there’s Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry. Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. Seamus Heaney’s North and Station Island. Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic is less about war than about the work of crafting peace, but it’s a book I’ve thought about a lot since I finished reading it. Beer in the Snooker Club, by Waguih Ghali, is not really a war book either, but there’s a long scene where two Egyptian characters go drinking with a British soldier that is also important to me. What else? Grant’s Memoirs. Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The war poetry of Kenneth Koch and James Dickey. Nathan Englander’s short stories. There’s plenty of great war or war-related writing.
Start Reading Redeployment by Phil Klay
Looking for more War Literature? A few more suggestions from the Penguin team:
Voices of the Pacific, by Adam Makos and Marcus Brotherton
A firsthand chronicle of United States Marine Corps’ actions in the Pacific. Following fifteen Marines from the Pearl Harbor attack, through battles with the Japanese, to their return home after V-J Day, Adam Makos and Marcus Brotherton have compiled an oral history of the Pacific War in the words of the men who fought on the front lines.
Civilian Warriors, by Erik Prince
Forget everything you think you know about Blackwater. And get ready for a thrilling, true story that will make you rethink who the good guys and bad guys have been since 9/11. Prince reveals new information about some of the biggest controversies of the War on Terror.
My Share of the Task, by General Stanley McChrystal
In this illuminating New York Times bestseller, McChrystal frankly explores the major episodes and controversies of his career. He paints a vivid portrait of how the military establishment turned itself, in one generation, into the adaptive, resilient force that would soon be tested in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the wider War on Terror.
Undaunted, by Tanya Biank
As she did so provocatively with military spouses in Army Wives, Tanya Biank gives us the inside story of women in today’s military—their professional and personal challenges from the combat zone to the home front…
Beyond Band of Brothers, by Dick Winters and Cole C. Kingseed
Now in paperback! The New York Times bestseller and war memoir from the commander of the legendary Band of Brothers––now with a new preface from Dick Winters.
Biggest Brother, by Larry Alexander
Full of never-before-published photographs, interviews, and Winters’s candid insights, Biggest Brother is the story of a man who became a soldier, a leader, and a living testament to the valor of the human spirit.
Call of Duty, by Lt. Lynn Compton and Marcus Brotherton
The national bestselling World War II memoir with a foreword by John McCain. This is the true story of a real-life hero.
Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends, by William Guarnere, Edward Heffron, and Robyn Post
Tom Hanks introduces the “remarkable” (Publishers Weekly) story of two inseparable friends and soldiers portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.
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