Around the Institute

Phil Klay, US Marine Corps Veteran, on his Book “Redeployment”

March 11, 2015

Recorded: March 11, 2015

Photo By: Patrice Gilbert

This Aspen Institute Book Series event features Phil Klay, veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, discussing his collection of short stories “Redeployment.” He is interviewed by Lea Carpenter, author of the 2013 best-selling war novel “Eleven Days.”

About the Book:
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 the eponymous story “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 “Mortuary 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.


About the Author:
Phil Klay is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer. After being discharged he went to Hunter College and received an MFA. His story Redeployment was originally published in Granta and is included in Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Granta, Tin House, and elsewhere.

About the Interviewer:
Lea Carpenter’s novel, Eleven Days (Knopf, 2013) tells the story of America’s special operations forces through the eyes of an officer who goes missing off a mission the same night as the bin Laden raid in May 2011, and also the eyes of his mother, who waits for news. The book’s title is a reference to the end of The Iliad, to Achilles’s decision to stand down his army for eleven days. Michiko Kakutani, in The New York Times, said the book “attests to the debut of an extraordinarily gifted writer.” Carpenter worked in literary publishing for ten years—as an editor at Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope and as Deputy Publisher of The Paris Review.