In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War

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Overview

In Pharaoh's Army is Tobias Wolff's unflinching account of his tour in Vietnam, his tangled journey there and back. Using his old wiles and talents, he passes through boot camp, trains as a paratrooper, volunteers for the Special Forces, studies Vietnamese, and - without really believing it himself - becomes an officer in the U.S. Army. Then, inexorably, he finds himself drawn into the war, sent to the Mekong Delta as adviser to a Vietnamese battalion. More or less innocent, self-deluded but rapidly growing less ...
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Overview

In Pharaoh's Army is Tobias Wolff's unflinching account of his tour in Vietnam, his tangled journey there and back. Using his old wiles and talents, he passes through boot camp, trains as a paratrooper, volunteers for the Special Forces, studies Vietnamese, and - without really believing it himself - becomes an officer in the U.S. Army. Then, inexorably, he finds himself drawn into the war, sent to the Mekong Delta as adviser to a Vietnamese battalion. More or less innocent, self-deluded but rapidly growing less so, he dedicates himself not to victory but to survival. For despite his impressive credentials, he recognizes in himself laughably little aptitude for the military life and no taste at all for the war. He ricochets between boredom and terror and grief for lost friends; then and in the years to come, he reckons the cost of staying alive. A superb memoir of war, In Pharaoh's Army is an intimate recounting of the central event of our recent past. Once again Tobias Wolff has combined the art of the best fiction and the immediacy of personal history - with authority, humanity, and sure conviction.

From one of our finest writers, a brilliant and unflinching account of his tour in Vietnam. As a young officer he ricochets between boredom and terror and grief for lost friends. Then and in years to come, he reckons the cost of staying alive in both body and spirit.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wolff's memoir of his disillusioning experience as a soldier in Vietnam was a finalist for the NBA. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Novelist and short story writer Wolff, who recounted his early years in This Boy's Life (LJ 1/89), served as a junior officer adviser to a South Vietnamese army unit in the Mekong Delta for his tour in Vietnam. Wolff, a reluctant warrior at best, now offers an idiosyncratic, witty, and thoroughly enjoyable glimpse into his military service and his civilian life immediately before and after Vietnam. This extended essay is not so much a combat narrative as the story of a young man's struggle to reach maturity and coming to terms with his family, his loves, his America, and himself. Wolff's characters (most especially his father and the long-suffering Sergeant Benet) and the American and Vietnamese settings are vividly depicted in a style only a skilled craftsman could devise. An excellent addition to American literature and Vietnam collections for academic and public libraries.-John R. Vallely, Siena Coll. Lib., Loudonville, N.Y.
John Mort
Though trained for the Special Forces, Wolff--the acclaimed author of "This Boy's Life" (1989)--wasn't much of a warrior, spending his entire tour of duty in a muddy, obscure village in the delta. His most crucial assignment was to trade an authentic ChiCom rifle for a Zenith television so that he and the veteran sergeant who worked for him could watch "Bonanza" in color. He weaves into his Vietnam narrative the story of his sad, ne'er-do-well father and of a hopeless romance he enjoyed (and suffered) during his quasi-civilian year of language study in Washington, D.C. His is an extremely literary memoir, full of rueful, gracefully rendered anecdotes, most of them centering on his ineptness as a soldier. Back from language study, Wolff was first assigned to lead an airborne company on a jump. He couldn't remember how it was done except that the jump should begin at the appearance of yellow smoke. The smoke Wolff did see wasn't yellow, but he ordered his men out anyhow; they landed in a slimy landfill five miles short of the target. There's the story, too, of a hapless dog Wolff saved from a barbecue, only to have it end up on his plate at a farewell dinner. Wolff also delivers vivid accounts of close calls and a graphic report of the destruction of one small village in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, but he never loses his pleasant, self-effacing tone, and because of his immaculate prose, his unlikely mix of memories is seamless. In fact, though it may seem an odd adjective for a war memoir, it's charming and could appeal to almost anyone.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780840089090
  • Publisher: B&N Distribution
  • Publication date: 10/27/1994

Table of Contents

Part One
Thanksgiving Special
Command Presence
White Man
Close Calls
Duty
A Federal Offense

Part Two
The Lesson
Old China
I Right a Wrong
Souvenir
The Rough Humor of Soldiers
Civilian
Last Shot

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Customer Reviews

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