Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Publisher: Knopf Canada
ISBN: 978-0-307-40223-3 (0-307-40223-1)
Pub Date: June 5, 2012
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In this powerful novel set in contemporary Kandahar, an Afghan woman approaches an American military base to demand the return of her brother's body.
At a stark outpost in the Kandahar mountain range, a team of American soldiers watches a young Afghan woman approach. She has come to beg for the return of her brother's body. The camp's tense, claustrophobic atmosphere comes to a boil as the men argue about what to do next. Taking its cue from the Antigone myth, this significant, eloquent novel re-creates the chaos, intensity, and immediacy of war, and conveys the inevitable repercussions felt by the soldiers and their families--especially one sister.
“An important book for our times, in which one woman’s determination and refusal to consent sets an example of courage and honesty.”
“We watch as the resistance of an isolated American garrison in Afghanistan is ground down, not by force of arms but by the will of a single unarmed woman, holding inflexibly to an idea of what is just and right.”
“A poignant and important book about one of the defining events of the start of the twenty-first century; it is devastatingly eloquent and unequivocal about the fact that there is no glory or beauty in war.”
“Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya’s lyrical and poignant evocation of war is a potent reminder of the murderous futility of our imperial adventures in the Middle East. He captures the raw brutality of industrial warfare, along with its trauma, senselessness, random death and stupidity. His characters, including the soldiers who prosecute the war and the innocents whose lives are maimed and destroyed by it, are consumed alike in the vast orgy of death that sweeps across war zones to extinguish all that is human—tenderness, compassion, understanding and finally love. He forces us to face the evil we do to others and to ourselves.”
—Chris Hedges, author of War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning and Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter
“Merciless and beautiful both, like the Central Asian outpost carved out of sand and war in which it is set, The Watch is a meticulous, gut-wrenching analysis of how we perpetuate violence. It is a reminder that we all—participants and onlookers alike—are complicit in the barbarities of war. It is our responsibility as writers to speak of the cruelty that each of us is capable of: cruelty that in the far-flung desert reaches of the empire, away from public scrutiny, seems to multiply with the wind’s breath, like loess grains. Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya fulfills his responsibility superbly.”
—Anna Badkhen, author of Peace Meals: Candy-Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories and Waiting for the Taliban
“You will remember her voice, this Afghan Antigone! You will remember this American First Sergeant, and this American First Lieutenant! What a masterpiece of the art of fiction—proof, if any were needed, that the Muse is real. Author Roy-Bhattacharya, neither Afghan nor American, faithfully sees and hears the good in both sides, and blows us off our feet in the shock wave from their explosive collision.”
—Jonathan Shay MD, PhD, author of Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America
“The Watch is a powerful tale, courageous both in concept and creation: an ancient tale made modern, passed through different narrators in extraordinary shape-shifting prose that makes this not just an important novel, but a remarkable read.”
“This miraculous book opens with thoughts, words and deeds of an ‘Antigone in Kandahar.’ Her demand simply the right to bury her brother, she confronts the Moloch of the American military machine. The miracle is that its author takes us with equal empathy through the hearts and minds of one after another rank and type of American soldier, each of whom in the end finds himself unable to turn away from her. Changes of dawn and dusk, of clear mountain peak and all-consuming sandstorm, wash all the while across the writing as each soldier’s humanity and fury demand our fullest attention.”
—William Mullen, Professor of Classics, Bard College
“Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya uses a minor incident outside the wire of a small American outpost to show conflicting obligations in war and their lamentable implications. A young Afghan woman wants to bury her brother who has been killed in an assault. A Tajik interpreter wants to defeat the Taliban and rebuild his country. And American soldiers are divided over conflicting duties to military discipline and idealistic goals which once inspired them but which have now faded. The Watch tells us a great deal about the paradoxes at the heart of the war in Afghanistan and the unfolding tragedy there.”
—Brian M Downing, author of The Paths of Glory: Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam (2003) and The Military Revolution and Political Change (2005)
JOYDEEP ROY-BHATTACHARYA was born in Jamshedpur, India, and educated in politics and philosophy at Calcutta University and the University of Pennsylvania. His novels, The Gabriel Club and The Storyteller of Marrakesh, have been published in 11 languages in 16 countries.
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