I’ve been reading The Good Soldiers by David Finkel. It’s a factual recounting of the deployment of the U.S. Army’s 2-16 Battalion during the surge in Iraq.
Something about the book struck me as both familiar and true, despite the fact that I haven’t been in the army and I haven’t been to Iraq. Then I ran across this passage and the lightbulb came on:
On June 20, Kauzlarich was boack on the air on PEACE 106 FM.
“Sir, there is talk that security is bad and getting worse. What is the way ahead to improve security?” Mohammed, whose name was not really Mohammed, asked in Arabic, which was translated into English by an interpreter named Izzzy, whose name was not really Izzy and who had replaced Mark, who had been arrested and jailed for extorting money from other Iraqis working on the FOB, all with fake names as well.
Frankel’s book and the story of the 2-16 remind me of this:
“And the people you sell the eggs to at four and a quarter cents apiece make a profit of two and three quarter cents apiece when they sell them back to you at seven cents apiece. Is that right? Why don’t you sell the eggs directly to you and eliminate the people you buy them from?”
“Because I’m the people I buy them from,” Milo explained.
That’s from Joseph Heller’s novel, Catch-22. I could have pulled a hundred different passages from that book that would have said the same thing. Reality is insanity. Fiction is reality.
It’s been said that truth is stranger than fiction, but fiction was never meant to be strange. A story may be fanciful, imaginative, even absurd, but stories are built and told to help make sense of the random events in a day, a year, a life. The absurdities of life are stranger than fiction precisely because fiction makes sense.
Nowhere in life, or in fiction, is this truth revealed more than in war. Frankel’s book is a good book because it tells the truth. Catch-22 is a good book because it tells the truth.
One is non-fiction, one is fiction. They both tell the truth. They both tell the same truth.
— Mark Barrett