Two new works of fiction about war, Phil Klay's Redeployment and Hassan Blasim's The Corpse Exhibition, share a nightmarish view of Americans' role in Iraq. If you think these have been unjust wars, fought for specious reasons, and therefore productive of great evil, these books will only fortify your opinion.
ALL MEN MUST DIE. A few months ago, posters emblazoned with this slogan began cropping up around New York, auguring both the doom that is our mortal lot and the season premiere of Game of Thrones. Like all things related to Game of Thrones, the ads were embraced with great enthusiasm and a striking
Major policy changes and crime epidemics rightly generate front-page headlines, but daily press coverage only hints at the complicated experiences of individual women serving in the US military. With a handful of notable exceptions, war memoirs are written predominantly by men, and most war stories have male protagonists; it is as if war itself, and the stories we tell about it, were inherently masculine.
William Tecumseh Sherman has always been known as an odd duck: depressive, erratic, prone to fits of mania and abiding personal grudges. He also married his sister, or at least his foster sister, though he passed their long periods of duty-related separation with whatever women were locally available. A new biography by the respected military-history writer Robert L. O'Connell revisits this well-known story, telling it again.
When Gloria Emerson's sprawling portrait of the United States in the wake of the Vietnam War was first published, it was hailed as a classic. But it also inspired some strikingly hostile reviews. This vastly polarized response would suggest that one of Emerson's major arguments—she insisted, in despair and disgust, that the Vietnam War had made no significant impact on America or Americans—might itself be wrong.
It would be easy to overlook the fact that communist literature is fictional, and, like most good fiction, bears, at least intermittently, some resemblance to the particulars of our real world. There is the desperation of the toiling many, alongside the indifference of the privileged few, and rounded out by the inability, ever, by anyone, to find a lasting solution.
I read only one war novel while I was writing my own. There were reasons: I didn't want to hear another novelist's voice as I was trying to find my own way into a soldier's mind. Also, my book is about a marine coming home from Iraq, and every war has its own weather and terrain, its own equipment and language.
Two new books—David Van Reybrouck's Congo and Dayo Olopade's The Bright Continent—take a fresh look at the African past and future. Both escape the constant need to treat Africa as a problem, the tedious compulsion to explain what has gone wrong or to prescribe how to fix it, that plagues so much writing about the continent.
In the 1920s and '30s, the Vienna-born biographer and fiction writer Stefan Zweig was the best-selling author in the world. His emotionally charged books captured a culture that was about to fracture beyond recognition. With the rise of Hitler, Zweig, who was Jewish, fled that world to watch it crumble from afar—moving to England, America, and finally Brazil, where he committed suicide in 1942. Seventy years later, his books are still popular and still inspire a range of responses: admiration, sympathy, and, in some cases, loathing.