This week I’ll be presenting at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Seattle. Thanks to Roy Scranton for the invite; it’s an honor to be part of a panel with Roy, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, and Phil Klay. If you’ll be at AWP, too, check us out at 10:30 on Friday morning.
Sterling review of Phil Klay’s short-story collection Redeployment here, just out today 26 February in the New York Times. Congratulations, Phil!
Another 26 February update: Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya will not be able to make it, but we will be joined by novelist and essayist Hilary Plum. Check out this interview with Hilary on the Full Stop website. It appeared shortly after the release of her 2013 novel They Dragged Them Through the Streets, which I haven’t read but am now eager to check out.
The AWP blurb for our panel:
F160. War Stories: Truth, Fiction, and Conflict. Roy Scranton, Phil Klay, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, Peter Molin. Room 301, Western New England MFA Annex, Level 3. The truth of war is always multiple. Homer’s Iliad gives us both Achilles and Hector, just as Tolstoy’s War and Peace opens up a panorama of perspectives. Fiction offers an unparalleled medium to explore the conflicting truths of war, yet also offers dangers. How do we negotiate politics, witnessing, and voyeurism? How can we highlight war’s ugliness and still write a compelling story? How do we portray war’s beauty and still write an ethical one? Our panel explores these age-old problems.
To give you an idea of what’s on my mind, here’s an excerpt from Iraqi short-story writer Hassan Blasim’s “An Army Newspaper.” Blasim’s narrator is the cultural editor of a military newspaper during the Iraq-Iran War. He writes of the submissions that he would receive from soldier-authors:
But I do admit that I would often interfere in the structure and composition of the stories and poems, and try as far as possible to add imaginative touches to the written images that would come to us from the front. For God’s sake, what’s the point, as we are about to embark on war in poetry, of someone saying, “I felt that the artillery bombardment was as hard as rain, but we were not afraid”? I would cross that out and rewrite it: “I felt that the artillery fire was like a carnival of stars, as we staggered like lovers across the soil of the homeland.” This is just a small example of my modest interventions.
Now why would Blasim write that? What was his narrator thinking?
Hassan Blasim, The Corpse Exhibition and Other Stories of Iraq. Penguin, 2013. Translated by Jonathan Wright.