Pumpkinflowers : a soldier's story /

It was just one small hilltop in a small, unnamed war in the late 1990s, but it would send out ripples that are still felt worldwide today. The hill, in Lebanon, was called the Pumpkin; 'flowers' was the military code word for 'casualties.' Matti Friedman re-creates the harrowing...

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Main Author: Friedman, Matti, (Author)
Format: Book
Language:English
Published:Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2016.
Edition:First edition.
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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Friedman, an Israeli journalist and writer, recounts the history of a hilltop bunker in southern Lebanon that was held by the Israeli army during the 1990s, beginning with the biography of a young soldier stationed there and transitioning into a memoir of his own time on the hill and his post-war visit as a tourist. Friedman's personal reflections alternate with a history of Israel's conflict in Lebanon, which he refers to as an unnamed and forgotten war, as he covers civilian sentiment, political responses to war and protest, and military strategy through the period. Though short, the book is remarkably educational and heartfelt: Friedman's experiences provide a critical historical perspective on the changing climate of war in the Middle East, shifting from short official conflicts into longer unwinnable wars full of guerilla tactics and the deliberate creation of media narratives and images. His lyrical writing, attention to detail, and personal honesty draw the reader into empathy along with understanding. Friedman's memoir deserves wide readership. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Powerful account of youthful Israelis maturing, fighting, and dying at a forgotten Lebanon outpost. In this limber, deceptively sparse take on the Middle East's tightening spiral of violence, Friedman (The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible, 2012) combines military history and personal experience on and off the line in deft, observant prose. The narrative is reminiscent of novels by Denis Johnson and Robert Stone, linking combat's violent absurdity to the traumatized perspectives of individual participants. Friedman covers the period from about 1994 to 2000, and most of the action takes place at a fortified border emplacement, nicknamed the Pumpkin, meant to prevent guerrilla incursions from southern Lebanon. The author notes that he and his predecessors found themselves "in a forgotten little corner of a forgotten little war, but one that has nonetheless reverberated with quiet force in our lives.Anyone looking for the origins of the Middle East of today would do well to look closely at these events." In the first section, Friedman dramatizes the experiences of an early unit serving there, focusing on Avi, a soldier who fulfills the infantry archetype of the rebellious miscreant who was changed by vicious combat, here against an increasingly professionalized Hezbollah. Avi's death in a helicopter accident fueled the civilian peace movement, represented by the anguish of the mothers of such casualties. Yet, as Friedman discovered during his own tour of the Pumpkin, the enemy they faced was quietly mutating: "Israel found itself facing an enemy other than the one it thought it was fighting." Throughout, the author grapples with questions regarding both Israeli aggression and the nature of the state's survival. In a chilling final section, he chronicles his travels as a Canadian tourist to his former combat zone in Lebanon, encountering friendly residents in thrall to Hezbollah and seething with anti-Semitism. A haunting yet wry tale of young people at war, cursed by political forces beyond their control, that can stand alongside the best narrative nonfiction coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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