What It Is Like to Go to War
By Karl Marlantes
(Atlantic Monthly Press, Hardcover, 9780802119926, 272pp.)
Publication Date: August 30, 2011
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From the author of the award-winning, best-selling novel Matterhorn, comes a brilliant nonfiction book about war
In 1968, at the age of twenty-three, Karl Marlantes was dropped into the highland jungle of Vietnam, an inexperienced lieutenant in command of a platoon of forty Marines who would live or die by his decisions. Marlantes survived, but like many of his brothers in arms, he has spent the last forty years dealing with his war experience. In What It Is Like to Go to War, Marlantes takes a deeply personal and candid look at what it is like to experience the ordeal of combat, critically examining how we might better prepare our soldiers for war. Marlantes weaves riveting accounts of his combat experiences with thoughtful analysis, self-examination, and his readingsfrom Homer to The Mahabharata to Jung. He makes it clear just how poorly prepared our nineteen-year-old warriors are for the psychological and spiritual aspects of the journey.
Just as Matterhorn is already being acclaimed as acclaimed as a classic of war literature, What It Is Like to Go to War is set to become required reading for anyonesoldier or civilianinterested in this visceral and all too essential part of the human experience.
A graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Karl Marlantes served as a Marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals. He is the author of Matterhorn, which won numerous prizes, including the William E. Colby Award given by the Pritzker Military Library, the Center for Fiction's Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, the 2011 Indies' Choice Award for Adult Debut Book of the Year, and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation's James Webb Award for Distinguished Fiction. He lives in rural Washington.
As a Marine in the Vietnam War, Karl Marlantes learned to fire an M16, to command a platoon, to fight and to kill. In What It Is Like to Go to War, he comes to terms with the experience of combat: the guilt, the thrill and the challenge of coming home. More at NPR.org
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Karl Marlantes has written a staggeringly beautiful book on combatwhat it feels like, what the consequences are and above all, what society must do to understand it. In my eyes he has become the preeminent literary voice on war of our generation. He is a natural storyteller and a deeply profound thinker who not only illuminates war for civilians, but also offers a kind of spiritual guidance to veterans themselves. As this generation of warriors comes home, they will be enormously helped by what Marlantes has writtenI’m sure he will literally save lives.”Sebastian Junger
Marlantes brings candor and wrenching self-analysis to bear on his combat experiences in Vietnam, in a memoir-based meditation whose intentions are three-fold: to help soldiers-to-be understand what they’re in for; to help veterans come to terms with what they’ve seen and done; and to help policymakers know what they’re asking of the men they send into combat.”The New Yorker
What It Is Like to Go to War is a well-crafted and forcefully argued work that contains fresh and important insights into what it’s like to be in a war and what it does to the human psyche.”The Washington Post
Marlantes is the best American writer right now on war . . . With What It Is Like to Go to War a second Marlantes book resides on the top shelf of American literature.”Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead
What It Is Like to Go to War ought to be mandatory reading by potential infantry recruits and by residents of any nation that sends its kidsMarlantes’s wordinto combat.”San Francisco Chronicle
In this thoughtful, literate work of self-exorcism, Marlantes tells tales of incredible bravery as well as brutality.”People Magazine
A precisely crafted and bracingly honest book."The Atlantic
Marlantes knows what he writes. . . Raw, unsettling honesty pervades the work.”Time.com
Marlantes has written a sparklingly provocative nonfiction book. . . He is an exceptional writer and his depictions here are vivid.”BookPage
A gripping, first-person plea to consider the impact on the human spirit of being a soldier.”Huffington Post
To say that this book is brilliant is an understatementMarlantes is the absolute master of taking the psyche of the combat veteran and translating it into words that the civilian or non-veteran can understand. I have read many, many books on war and this is the first time that I've ever read exactly what the combat veteran thinks and feelsnothing I have ever read before has hit home in my heart like this book.”Gunnery Sergeant Terence D’Alesandro, 3rd Batallion, 5th Marines, U.S. Marine Corps
Wrenchingly honest. . . . Digging as deeply into his own life as he does into the larger sociological and moral issues, Marlantes presents a riveting, powerfully written account of how, after being taught to kill, he learned to deal with the aftermath.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A valiant effort to explain and make peace with war’s awesome consequences for human beings.”Kirkus Reviews
What It Is Like to Go to War offers profound insight on how we must prepare our youth who become our warriors for their hard and uncompromising journey through war’s hell and back home again.”Vietnam Magazine
With war such a part of contemporary American life, this book is deeply important, as timely and urgent as contemporary on-the-ground reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq.”The Minneapolis Star Tribune
A sound debunking of anything smacking of the glory of warfarebut written with compassion, honest and wit for men and now women who fight and for all of those who care about them.”St. Louis Dispatch
A slim spiritual guide. . . Marlantes’s book is a sincere plea for better soldiers and veterans.”Seattle Weekly
What It Is Like to Go to War is a courageous, noble and intelligent grapple with myth, history, and spirituality that beautifully elevates the cultural conversation on the role of the military in today’s world. It is an emotional, honest, and affecting primer for all Americans on war and the national psyche, and we ignore this book at our own peril.”Ed Conklin, Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara