Winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction · Winner of the John Leonard First Book Prize · Selected as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post Book World, Amazon, and more
Phil Klay's Redeployment takes readers to the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned. Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos.
In "Redeployment", a soldier who has had to shoot dogs because they were eating human corpses must learn what it is like to return to domestic life in suburbia, surrounded by people "who have no idea where Fallujah is, where three members of your platoon died." In "After Action Report", a Lance Corporal seeks expiation for a killing he didn't commit, in order that his best friend will be unburdened. A Morturary Affairs Marine tells about his experiences collecting remains—of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers both. A chaplain sees his understanding of Christianity, and his ability to provide solace through religion, tested by the actions of a ferocious Colonel. And in the darkly comic "Money as a Weapons System", a young Foreign Service Officer is given the absurd task of helping Iraqis improve their lives by teaching them to play baseball. These stories reveal the intricate combination of monotony, bureaucracy, comradeship and violence that make up a soldier's daily life at war, and the isolation, remorse, and despair that can accompany a soldier's homecoming.
Redeployment is poised to become a classic in the tradition of war writing. Across nations and continents, Klay sets in devastating relief the two worlds a soldier inhabits: one of extremes and one of loss. Written with a hard-eyed realism and stunning emotional depth, this work marks Phil Klay as one of the most talented new voices of his generation.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Phil Klay is a Dartmouth graduate and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. He served in Iraq during the surge and subsequently received an MFA from Hunter College. His first published story, “Redeployment”, appeared in Granta’s Summer 2011 issue. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, Tin House, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012.
Read an Excerpt
We shot dogs. Not by accident. We did it on purpose and we called it Operation Scooby. I’m a dog person, so I thought about that a lot.
First time was instinct. I hear O’Leary go, “Jesus,” and there’s a skinny brown dog lapping up blood the same way he’d lap up water from a bowl. It wasn’t American blood, but still, there’s that dog, lapping it up. And that’s the last straw, I guess, and then it’s open season on dogs.
At the time you don’t think about it. You’re thinking about who’s in that house, what’s he armed with, how’s he gonna kill you, your buddies. You’re going block by block, fighting with rifles good to 550 meters and you’re killing people at five in a concrete box.
The thinking comes later, when they give you the time. See, it’s not a straight shot back, from war to the Jacksonville mall. When our deployment was up, they put us on TQ, this logistics base out in the desert, let us decompress a bit. I’m not sure what they meant by that. Decompress. We took it to mean jerk off a lot in the showers. Smoke a lot of cigarettes and play a lot of cards. And then they took us to Kuwait and put us on a commercial airliner to go home.
So there you are. You’ve been in a no-shit war zone and then you’re sitting in a plush chair looking up at a little nozzle shooting air conditioning, thinking, what the fuck? You’ve got a rifle between your knees, and so does everyone else. Some Marines got M9 pistols, but they take away your bayonets because you aren’t allowed to have knives on an airplane. Even though you’ve showered, you all look grimy and lean. Everybody’s hollow eyed and their cammies are beat to shit. And you sit there, and close your eyes, and think.
The problem is, your thoughts don’t come out in any kind of straight order. You don’t think, oh, I did A, then B, then C, then D. You try to think about home, then you’re in the torture house. You see the body parts in the locker and the retarded guy in the cage. He squawked like a chicken. His head was shrunk down to a coconut. It takes you awhile to remember Doc saying they’d shot mercury into his skull, and then it still doesn’t make any sense.
Excerpted from "Redeployment"
Copyright © 2014 Phil Klay.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
These stories are surgically precise strikes to the heart; you can't read them without recalling other classic takes on war and loss—Conrad, Herr, Hemingway. Klay maps the cast of our recent Middle East conflicts and illuminates its literal, and philosophical center: human casualty.—Lea Carpenter, author of Eleven Days
If you want to know the real cost of war for those who do the fighting, read Redeployment. These stories say it all, with an eloquence and rare humanity that will simultaneously break your heart and give you reasons to hope.—Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Phil Klay's stories are tightly wound psychological thrillers. The global wars of our last decade weave in and out of these affecting tales about characters who sound and feel like your neighbors. Klay comes to us through Leo Tolstoy, Ray Carver, and Ann Beattie. It's a thrill to read a young writer so brilliantly parsing the complexities and vagaries of war. That he does so with surgical precision and artful zest makes this a must-read.—Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead
As we try to understand the human costs of yet another foreign conflict, Phil Klay brings us the stories of the American combatants, told in a distinct, new, and powerful voice.—Nathan Englander, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
Dexter Filkins, The New York Times Book Review:
“[Klay captures] on an intimate scale the ways in which the war in Iraq evoked a unique array of emotion, predicament and heartbreak. In Klay’s hands, Iraq comes across not merely as a theater of war but as a laboratory of the human condition in extremis. Redeployment is hilarious, biting, whipsawing and sad. It’s the best thing written so far on what the war did to people’s souls.”
Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times:
“In Redeployment, his searing debut collection of short stories, Phil Klay—a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, who served in Iraq during the surge—gives the civilian reader a visceral feeling for what it is like to be a soldier in a combat zone, and what it is like to return home, still reeling from the dislocations of war. Gritty, unsparing and fiercely observed, these stories leave us with a harrowing sense of the war in Iraq as it was experienced, day by day, by individual soldiers."
George Packer, The New Yorker:
“The best literary work thus far written by a veteran of America’s recent wars.... Klay’s fiction peels back every pretty falsehood and self-delusion in the encounter between veterans and the people for whom they supposedly fought.”
Kathryn Schulz, New York Magazine:
“An excellent, upsetting debut collection of short stories. Klay’s own view is everywhere, existential and practical, at home and abroad, distributed with wonderful clarity of voice and harrowing specificity of experience among Army chaplains, enlisted men, Foreign Service officers, members of Mortuary Affair, and more.”
The Wall Street Journal:
“The influences behind Mr. Klay’s writing go far beyond Iraq. At times Redeployment recapitulates the remarkably tender, self-conscious style that Tim O’Brien forged from his experiences in Vietnam…Mr. Klay is able to surprise and provoke….Mr. Klay gives a deeply disquieting view of a generation of soldiers reared on war’s most terrible contradictions.”
“Klay—a Marine who served during the surge—has an eye and an ear for a single searing line of dialogue or a scene of maddening dissonance that can pierce your soul….Klay brilliantly manages to wring some sense out of the nonsensical—resulting in an extraordinary, if unnerving, literary feat.”
San Francisco Chronicle:
“Klay's closely observed debut collection of stories…makes a fine contribution….Klay establishes an impressive authority over his subject, which he maintains throughout the book in a clipped and jargon-laden prose.”
“One of the best debuts of the year.”
“In a book that's drawing comparisons to classic war literature like Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, Klay examines the deep conflict, in all of us, between wanting to tell our stories and wanting to protect them from being diminished or misunderstood.”
The Daily Beast:
“Phil Klay has written brilliant, true, and winning fiction on the Iraq War.”
“Perhaps the most vital short story collection to emerge in the past few years….Redeployment falls somewhere between the in-the-trenches lyricism of Kevin Powers’s The Yellow Birds and the bold satire of Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. And yet, it feels more urgent than both…. Redeployment is urgent, smart, and darkly comic.”
Publishers Weekly (starred):
"Klay grasps both tough-guy characterization and life spent in the field, yet he also mines the struggle of soldiers to be emotionally freed from the images they can’t stop seeing. It’s clear that Klay, himself a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Iraq, has parlayed his insider’s knowledge of soldier-bonding and emotional scarring into a collection that proves a powerful statement on the nature of war, violence, and the nuances of human nature."
Kirkus Reviews (starred):
“A sharp set of stories....Klay’s grasp of bureaucracy and bitter irony here rivals Joseph Heller and George Orwell....A no-nonsense and informed reckoning with combat.”
Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal:
“Important reading; pay attention.”
Lawrence Rungren, Library Journal:
"Harrowing at times and blackly comic at others, the author’s first collection could become for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts what Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is for the Vietnam War."
Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk:
"If you want to know the real cost of war for those who do the fighting, read Redeployment. These stories say it all, with an eloquence and rare humanity that will simultaneously break your heart and give you reasons to hope."
Nathan Englander, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank:
"As we try to understand the human costs of yet another foreign conflict, Phil Klay brings us the stories of the American combatants, told in a distinct, new, and powerful voice."
Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!:
"Redeployment is a stunning, upsetting, urgently necessary book about the impact of the Iraq war on both soldiers and civilians. Klay's writing is searing and powerful, unsparing of its characters and its readers, art made from a soldier's fearless commitment to confront those losses that can't be tallied in statistics. 'Be honest with me,' a college student asks a returning veteran in one story, and Phil Klay's answer is a challenge of its own: these stories demand and deserve our attention.
Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead:
"Phil Klay's stories are tightly wound psychological thrillers. The global wars of our last decade weave in and out of these affecting tales about characters who sound and feel like your neighbors. Klay comes to us through Leo Tolstoy, Ray Carver, and Ann Beattie. It's a thrill to read a young writer so brilliantly parsing the complexities and vagaries of war. That he does so with surgical precision and artful zest makes this a must-read."
Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin:
"When the history of these times are finally shaken out, and the shredders have all been turned off, we will turn to writers like Phil Klay to finally understand the true nature of who we were, and where we have been, and where we are still going. He slips himself in under the skin of the war with a muscular language and an agile heart and a fair amount of complicated doubt. Redeployment will be one of the great story collections of recent times. Phil Klay is a writer of our times. I can't wait to see what he does next."
Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone:
“To most, the war in Iraq is a finished chapter in history. Not so to the Marines, family members, and State Department employees in Phil Klay's electrifying debut collection, Redeployment. Thanks to these provocative and haunting stories, the war will also become viscerally real to readers. Phil Klay is a powerful new voice and Redeployment stands tall with the best war writing of this decade.”
Patrick McGrath, author of Trauma:
"Redeployment is fiction of a very high order. These are war stories, written with passion and urgency and consummate writerly skill. There's a clarity here that's lacerating in its precision and exhiliration in its effect."
Lea Carpenter, author of Eleven Days:
"These stories are surgically precise strikes to the heart; you can't read them without recalling other classic takes on war and loss—Conrad, Herr, Hemingway. Klay maps the cast of our recent Middle East conflicts and illuminates its literal, and philosophical center: human casualty."
Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta:
“These are gorgeous stories—fierce, intelligent and heartbreaking. Phil Klay, a former Marine, brings us both the news from Iraq and the news from back home. His writing is bold and sure, and full of all sorts of authority—literary, military and just plain human. This is news we need to hear, from a new writer we need to know about.”
When the history of these times is finally shaken out, and the shredders have all been turned off, we will turn to writers like Phil Klay to finally understand the true nature of who we were, and where we have been, and where we are still going. He slips himself in under the skin of the war with a muscular language and an agile heart and a fair amount of complicated doubt. "Redeployment" will be one of the great story collections of recent times. Phil Klay is a writer of our times. I can't wait to see what he does next.—Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
To most, the war in Iraq is a finished chapter in history. Not so to the Marines, family members, and State Department employees in Phil Klay's electrifying debut collection, Redeployment. Thanks to these provocative and haunting stories, the war will also become viscerally real to readers. Phil Klay is a powerful new voice and Redeployment stands tall with the best war writing of this decade.—Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone
Redeployment is fiction of a very high order. These are war stories, written with passion and urgency and consummate writerly skill. There's a clarity here that's lacerating in its precision and exhilarating in its effects.—Patrick McGrath, author of Trauma
"Redeployment" is a stunning, upsetting, urgently necessary book about the impact of the Iraq war on both soldiers and civilians. Klay's writing is searing and powerful, unsparing of its characters and its readers, art made from a soldier's fearless commitment to confront those losses that can't be tallied in statistics. "Be honest with me," a college student asks a returning veteran in one story, and Phil Klay's answer is a challenge of its own: these stories demand and deserve our attention.—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!
These are gorgeous stories—fierce, intelligent and heartbreaking. Phil Klay, a former Marine, brings us both the news from Iraq and the news from back home. His writing is bold and sure, and full of all sorts of authority—literary, military and just plain human. This is news we need to hear, from a new writer we need to know about. —Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta
Reading Group Guide
1. What does the title, “Redeployment,” mean in the context of the first story in the collection?
2. Have you or anyone close to you ever served in the military? If so, did Klay’s stories resonate with your and/or their experience?
3. In “Unless It’s a Sucking Chest Wound,” the narrator refers to “the idea of Iraq all my civilian friends imagine when they say the word, an Iraq filled with honor and violence” (p. 238). What was your “idea of Iraq” before you read the book? Did the book confirm or change your view?
4. Klay’s book is a moving and satisfying read, but also extremely emotionally challenging. Which parts did you find the most difficult? What was your favorite story?
5. The narrator of “Bodies” tells the story of a Marine who had burned to death clutching a small rock in each hand. He describes it as “the worst burn case we ever had. Worst not in charring or loss of body parts, just worst” (p. 69). Why?
6. If you were to describe Klay’s writing in three words, what would they be?
7. The stories in Redeployment often include military terms that might have been unfamiliar to you prior to reading the book. If so, what effect did this language have on you?
8. In “Psychological Operations,” why does Waguih describe to his father the profanities he used against Laith al-Tawhid (p. 210)? Why does he tell Zara?
9. Reading a collection of short stories is a very different experience than reading a novel. How did you approach the book? What enjoyment do story collections provide that longer works (novels and nonfiction) do not?
10. Look at the last paragraph of the last story in the book. How is this an effective end to the entire collection?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
_"Redeployment" is today's top fictional account of Middle East combat, told in a series of story-chapters by Marines on and off the firing line. This first rate attention grabber moves along in a flow of action, irony, humor, and profound sadness. Check out the first chapter for the book's sustaining tone; every line is fast and no nonsense. The reader learns that home-bound Marines--coming from places like Fallujah--do so in carefully managed steps. "See, it's not a straight shot from war to the Jacksonville mall." Instead, it's a bus to Kuwait where the troops are packed in the plush wonder of a commercial airliner. Heavy armament is everywhere: "You've got a rifle between your knees...Some Marines got M9 pistols, but they take away your bayonets because you're not allowed to have knives on an airplane." Memories suddenly emerge. The "doing the death rattle, foaming and shaking ...He's hit with a 7.62...he'll be gone in a second, but the company XO walks up, pulls out his KA-BAR, and slits his throat...On the flight I thought about that..." The final irony, the last stage of deployment, is the warm hometown parade. But even here you're always watching your back, guarded as an orange traffic light. And always, always, there ias that distance between you, the civilian, and the warrior.
The storytelling is great. The Things They Carried really put the Vietnam War in perspective. This collection of stories does that for the War in Iraq.
Like any book of short stories, some are going to better than others. And, to be honest, some of these stories where a without "wow." However, when they were good, man, they were really, really good. Riveting. Even the less good ones are full of raw emotion and language. Definite read.
I could not put this book down. It puts you right on the front line of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It also shows you want our military people go through at home. A very well written group of short stories by a former mil arty man.
The truth of our war effort can only be found in the details that go unreported. Loved it.
Excellent read! At times, I found the military terminology out of my grasp, as I was constantly looking up the acronyms. Each story though, showed a different level of depth, and helped the reader understand various different viewpoints about the war.
I didn't finish this book, something that rarely happens. My nephew, a Marine, served two tours in Iraq, came back physically and mentally damaged. He was seeing a woman over there. A jeepload of her and her friends were coming to visit for an evening of r&r. Got blown up by a roadside mine. He had to go out and help pick up body parts. War is hell. This might have been a good book but I couldn't get past the million and one acronyms, hence the two stars.
In "Redeployment," Phil Klay gives us a collection of short stories, all about the recent war in Iraq, mainly but not entirely featuring Marines who are or have been deployed there. Despite being Marine-centered, this polyphonic collection--and Klay masterfully writes with different voices--shows the diversity of experience that Americans deployed in Iraq had: from coming under fire ("Frago," "After Action Report") to handling the bodies afterwards ("Bodies") to dealing with the paperwork ("Unless It's a Sucking Chest Wound"). There's even a delightfully funny story about a state department employee trying to do a little good against all obstacles ("Money as a Weapons System"). There are also a series of stories about the problems of coming back home and trying to fit in with people who don't know what you've been through but are more than willing to make assumptions. In fact, while there's certainly plenty of the things you might expect from a book about Iraq, like sand, tough talk, and acronyms, a recurring theme in the stories is not just the violence of war and what it does to you, but the way in which being a part of it makes other people see you. Klay's Marines are acutely aware that they stand out and get attention from the rest of the populace: like very attractive women, these men find that other people come up to them to talk to them uninvited, that other people are more than happy to buy them drinks, listen to them, sleep with them, and make assumptions about them. And like many very attractive women, Klay's Marines are ambivalent about this: while the attention is flattering and sometimes helpful for getting what they want, they become more and aware that they are objects of other people's projections: other people see them not for themselves but as members of a special, elite caste (like very attractive women) to be used as receptacles of other people's envy and desire. All the tough talk and objectification of others can't save them from this, any more than drinking and sex can save them from memories they'd rather forget. "Redeployment" is about the war in Iraq, and like most books about the war, it asks the question of "What the heck were we doing there?" But beyond that, it asks the question of "Who am I? How do people see me? Is that who I am?" Which is one of those questions that unites everyone, no matter what their experiences or what caste, elite or non-elite, they happen to occupy.
I like the idea of this book because it was a collection of different types of narratives vs one cohesive novel. The stories were very diverse ranging from a soldier's experience in combat to one who had more of a civilian role to one dealing with PTSD. I hope there are more novels like this so that the rest of us can get a more accurate glance into military life.
Redeployment is awful. Like a few other reviewers, I wonder how anyone is rating this book 4 and 5 stars. I'm thinking those are people who get paid to punch as many stars as possible in an effort to sell the book. There were times when I thought about putting the book down; it's that bad. To compare it to Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried is an insult to O'Brien. Redeployment is poorly conceived and sloppily written, and I suspect the only reason it received an award is because it portrays the war negatively. Not that war is or has to be a positive experience. But it's a much safer bet to be critical than hopeful. Really, this book isn't worth buying or reading.
I really enjoyed this book. Like another commenter said, it has a similar feel to Tim O'Brien's "The Things they Carried" It shows the reality of being deployed in Iraq, and the aftermath through the experiences of admin marines to infantry, to propagandists. It has no "moto" feel, instead, it just shows the truth for these men and women.
How are these books getting 4&5 star ratings ? Maybe its me. Other then lone survivor I have not read a 3 star book on the current wars. Sorry but the books about war 2 are much better read. Anyone else feel this way?
Look i cried at the dogs getting shot but i dont like hearing about that so i wouldnt recemend this to people who love animals as much as i do... But on the other hand i had to say it astonishingly wonderful.
First time in a while I didnt bother to finish a book. Fiction. Dont waste your money. Couldnt give it a half star...
This book has ni info. During one chapter he has to go with troop one thirtysevn and nothing happens. Barely any action