Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fiction and the Absence of Iraq

At the Kenyon Review blog, Hilary Plum writes: “I couldn’t even imagine imagining myself or my ‘characters’ into Iraq; to me one of the fundamental tragedies of this war has been its radical absence from American culture, daily life, discussion, awareness, morality—living here, it’s as if it could almost not be happening, as if we weren’t even there. (With the exception, of course, of the experience of US soldiers and their families—whose stories have broken through occasionally, only to be drowned out again, and seeming never or only infinitesimally to result in any change of policy or discourse.) I wanted to document that absence, which I couldn’t do by imagining myself out of or through it.”

My wife occasionally comments on how jarring it is to think, in the middle of the workday and out of the blue, We are at war right now. It's not as if we don't know anyone serving in the military. We do. It's not as if we don't know families affected by the wars. The consumerist cocoon is just so hermetic. As with so many things—history, ethics, emotional independence—the consumerist machine wants us to forget. Hundreds of thousands of men and women have fought, but you would never know that. If we think too much or too deeply about the war, we may realize that something matters other than, say, owning this car. Think of that Superbowl ad for Chrysler that equates nationalism with purchasing, or of the appropriation of the Twin Towers' economic history as a model American history. Not knowing that we are at war—most of the time—is a device. It helps sell products. Product first, and from them: ethics, civics, identity.

1 comment:

Zachary Bos said...

Temporally enough, we've got two books -- a novel and a collection of short stories -- by Iraqi authors, under development through one of our Pen & Anvil imprints.