Redeployment by Phil Klay - review by A S H Smyth

A S H Smyth

Iraq & Back



Canongate 288pp £14.99

‘Nobody wants to do a year in Iraq’, mutters one of the narrators in Phil Klay’s Redeployment, ‘and come back with nothing but stories about the soft-serve ice-cream machine at the embassy cafeteria.’ No kidding. And Klay (rhymes with ‘guy’) will not have been the first soldier, American or otherwise, to return from operations and find that gung-ho anecdotes were frankly expected of him. But a rundown of the opening lines in this debut collection of short stories – ‘We shot dogs’; ‘In any other vehicle we’d have died’; ‘For a long time I was angry’ – would make for a more than acceptable PowerPoint on the diversity of American experience during the nine-year misadventure in Iraq.

Hooked very loosely on Klay’s own 13 months in Anbar Province, as a Marine Public Affairs officer, during the Surge of 2007–8, Redeployment progressively gives voice to grunts and morticians, chaplains and Foreign Service officials, as they variously assault bomb factories, get written up for decorations, stumble upon scenes of

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