Wednesday, January 6, 2016 |
It was a small hilltop in a small, unnamed war in the late 1990s, but it would send out ripples that continue to emanate worldwide today. The hill was called the Pumpkin; flowers was the military code word for "casualties." Friedman's visceral narrative recreates harrowing wartime experiences in a work that is part frontlines memoir, part journalistic reporting, part military history. The years in question were pivotal ones, and not just for Israel. They saw the perfection of a type of warfare that would eventually be exported to Afghanistan and Iraq. The new 21st century war is one in which there is never any clear victor, and not enough lives are lost to rally the public against it. Eventually Israel would come to realize that theirs was a losing proposition and pull out. But, of course, by then these soldiers - those who had survived - and the country had been wounded in ways large and small. Raw, powerful, beautifully rendered, the book will take its place among classic war stories such as those by George Orwell, Philip Caputo, and Vasily Grossman. Pumpkinflowers is an unflinching look, like the works of Jon Krakauer and Sebastian Junger, at the way we conduct war today. (From Signal)
When these things began to be clear something interesting occurred. People in Israel didn't despair, as our enemies hoped. Instead they stopped paying attention. What would we gain from looking to our neighbors? Only heartbreak, and a slow descent after them into the pit. No, we would turn our back on them and look elsewhere, to the film festivals in Berlin and Copenhagen or the tech parks of California. Our happiness would no longer depend on the moods of people who wish us ill, and their happiness wouldn't concern us more than ours concerns them. Something important in the mind of the country - and old utopian optimism - was laid to rest. At the same time we were liberated, most of us, from the curse of existing as characters in a mythic drama, from the hallucination that our lives are enactments of the great moral problems of humanity, that people in Israel are anything other than people, hauling their biology from home to work and trying to eke out the usual human pleasures in an unfortunate region and an abnormal history.
From Pumpkinflowers by Matti Friedman ©2016. Published by Signal.