Fiction about the Gulf War/Iraq/Afghanistan?
August 5, 2010 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for novels (or short stories) written about the Gulf War, the Iraq War, or Afghanistan. There are good memoirs and nonfiction books, but are there any good works of fiction centering on these conflicts?
posted by luxperpetua to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Nicholas Kulish's Last One In is a fictionalized account from the point of view of a reporter covering the latest Iraq War. Kulish just happens to be a reporter who covered the Iraq War.
posted by Xalf at 2:52 PM on August 5, 2010

The Storekeeper, by Otis Haschemeyer has always been a favorite. As a Navy vet myself, it rang so true I figured it must just be an embellished personal memoir sort of thing. But I tracked down the author, and he says it is just a retelling of a story someone else told him. So even if is classified as non-fiction, the author thinks otherwise.
posted by timsteil at 3:31 PM on August 5, 2010

The Kite Runner is about Afghanistan from the perspective of a Pashtun boy/man.
posted by illenion at 3:57 PM on August 5, 2010

James Blinn's The Aardvark is Ready For War might fit the bill.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:34 PM on August 5, 2010

Frederick Forsyth's The Fist of God and The Afghan. Spy mysteries.
posted by galadriel at 4:56 PM on August 5, 2010

Best answer: Yeah, The Aardvark Is Ready For War is the only novel I know about the first Gulf War. Unfortunately, I don't think it is very good, it struggles to hard for the Catch-22 vibe. In terms of quality it doesn't really compare to something like Jarhead.

I think I also read a novel about an Afro-American reporter embedded in the first Gulf War but I can't for the life of me remember the title or the author. Wikipedia also suggests Glass by James Chapman and Prayer At Rumayla by Charles Sheehan-Miles but I've no idea what they are like.
posted by ninebelow at 2:31 AM on August 6, 2010

Not fiction but Brian Turner has published highly acclaimed poetry about Iraq.

And, sort of tangentially, Geoff Dyer recently reviewed two non-fiction accounts of the recent conflicts and examined not only the blurring of reportage and fiction but why so few novels had been produced about Iraq and Afghanistan:
As Packer put it in his recent collection of essays, Interesting Times: "The press redeemed in Baghdad what it had botched in Washington." Reportage, long-form reporting – call it what you will – has left the novel looking superfluous. The fiction lobby might respond: it's too soon to tell. A decade of literary silence followed the armistice of 1918. It wasn't until 1929 that a novel appeared that made imaginative sense of the first world war. Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front answered an unspoken need and helped to create the conditions in which other war novels might, in the words of the hopeful Richard Aldington "go big". Since then, however, the lag between a given war and the appearance of books about it has shrunk. Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead appeared in 1948. In terms of its timing, Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961) was a strange and fortuitous case: a novel about the second world war that seemed to anticipate the absurdity of Vietnam. The defining prose work to come out of that conflict was a book of reportage, Michael Herr's Dispatches (1977), while the first Gulf war received its most memorable prose expression in Jarhead (2003), Anthony Swofford's account of his time in the marines.

The precedent set by Herr and followed, in off-kilter fashion, by Swofford, seems unlikely to be reversed. If there were ever a time when the human stories contained within historical events – what Packer calls "the human heart of the matter" – could only be assimilated and comprehended when they had been processed by a novel (War and Peace is the supreme example), that time has passed. As David Shields put it in his recent manifesto, Reality Hunger: "A while ago the imaginative thing – the supposedly great thing – would have been to write a 'novel about Vietnam', but I just feel in my bones how little I could read that." You don't have to sign up for Shield's anti-novel jihad to feel that what he says about Vietnam holds good for Iraq – only more so.
posted by ninebelow at 2:44 AM on August 6, 2010

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