Redeployment (2014)

Phil Klay

Along with Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch this was my favourite read of 2016. They both deeply affected me perhaps because I read each of them in hospital in very short time-spans. They were also both recommended by Bret Easton Ellis on his Instagram and though I don’t necessarily agree with all the views he has on his podcast I so far 100% back his taste in film and literature.

In a way, too this book reminded me of Holly Child’s No Limit’s (perhaps my third favourite read book of last year). The two books are worlds apart in subject matter but in reading each there is the sense that there has been extensive reduction in drafting and editing so that what is left behind is the boiled down essence and exactly what author wished to convey.

Redeployment consists of ten stories based around the Iraq war and/or its aftermath. Each story is narrated from a different perspective and these different perspectives range over various ranks military departments and stages of deployment, redeployment and return to civilian life. Klay has stated that his goal was to avoid creating caricatures and stereotypes of military figures and in this respect, as well as others, he is very successful.

I was drawn to this book in the same way that I have been drawn to other works dealing with the Iraq war such as Generation Kill, The Red Circle, American Sniper, Lone Gunmen and also biographies and the auto-biography of George W. Bush. It is the war of my generation but, unlike previous wars, history still doesn’t seem to know how to deal with it and whether to accept or reject its mission and legacy. Was the war necessary, successful or criminal? And if I have these questions, in Australia, how much more confusing must it be in America where the likelihood of knowing someone who served in Iraq would be much higher?

Redeployment doesn’t necessarily answer any of these questions but it goes a long way towards explaining why the questions and confusions and anger and sadness over the war exists in this way. The different perspectives which Klay utilises are nuanced and complicated. They show that there is no one war story or right or wrong sense of horror or alienation. They also highlight how far removed we in the Western world are from the field of battle and how easily we distanced and distance ourselves and the day to day reality of our lives from the horror of this conflict.

And so while it doesn’t answer my questions. While I can’t properly summate why this book is so powerful and affecting in the space of a short review what I can say is that this book goes a long way to providing the best reflection of the confusion and fog of war and the many lives which have been and are touched by its shadow.

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