ANTHONY SWOFFORD JARHEAD PDF

Two months after his twentieth birthday, he was stationed near Riyadh awaiting the onset of Desert Storm, in what we now call the first Gulf War. A decade after that, he enlisted in that alternative American boot camp, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, whose battle-hardened alumni include Raymond Carver and T Coraghessan Boyle. Seduced by the idea that 'the warrior always fights for a sorry cause. And if he lives, he tells stories', Swofford then got out his old desert maps and, armed with his newly drilled prose, set about recounting the tale of his war. Swofford sifts through his old kit in his cellar, the combat clothes 'bleached by sand and sun and blemished with the petroleum rain that fell from the oil-well fires in Kuwait'. Though clearly written well before the current conflict became reality, the parallels in these recollections - directives that come from Bush and Cheney, the peace marchers proclaiming no war for oil - are no less uncanny for being familiar.

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Two months after his twentieth birthday, he was stationed near Riyadh awaiting the onset of Desert Storm, in what we now call the first Gulf War. A decade after that, he enlisted in that alternative American boot camp, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, whose battle-hardened alumni include Raymond Carver and T Coraghessan Boyle.

Seduced by the idea that 'the warrior always fights for a sorry cause. And if he lives, he tells stories', Swofford then got out his old desert maps and, armed with his newly drilled prose, set about recounting the tale of his war. Swofford sifts through his old kit in his cellar, the combat clothes 'bleached by sand and sun and blemished with the petroleum rain that fell from the oil-well fires in Kuwait'.

Though clearly written well before the current conflict became reality, the parallels in these recollections - directives that come from Bush and Cheney, the peace marchers proclaiming no war for oil - are no less uncanny for being familiar. Swofford was born to the military.

He had looked to the Marines as a surrogate family, and as a way of growing up, but the vicious reality of the life of a 'grunt' still comes as a great shock to him. The first casualty of Swofford's war is not truth but a personal voice; the most significant battle he wages in this memoir is to find a way to reappropriate it.

Partly because of this fascination with the authentic lexicon of modern warfare, the publishers of Jarhead - the title refers to the 'high and tight' crewcut favoured by Marines - would like you to believe that Swofford is part of a literary lineage that runs through Michael Herr and Norman Mailer and - highly fanciful this one - Wilfred Owen.

What undermines these comparisons is not so much Swofford's testosterone-injected writing, even though it lacks the free-spirited precision of, say, Herr's Dispatches, but rather his distance from the conflict. Though trained as part of his unit's elite sniper squad, Swofford never really gets to release a shot in anger, and the most serious threats to his safety come from friendly fire. In the absence of this proximity - as one four hundred thousandth part of an American show of strength - Swofford directs much of his frustration at the dehumanising privations of life in the sand.

Grim as the Saudi desert may be, it is not the Somme, nor the jungles of Vietnam, and the range of the sniper's emotions tends to run from self-aggrandisement to self-despair. For much of his six-month tour of duty the person he seems most likely to shoot is himself. With too much time on his hands, Swofford comes to believe his girlfriend back home is enjoying the afternoon attentions of a hotel clerk she mentions in her letters.

This suspicion becomes so strong he puts the barrel of his M16 in his mouth and toys with the trigger. In this episode, and much of the remainder of the book, it feels like Swofford is playing the part of the soldier, at one remove from his emotions.

He and his fellow grunts borrow much of their attitude from war movies. Raised on Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, which the recruits watch over and over before they leave for the combat zone, Swofford mouths the values of the Jarhead, as if reading the script: 'I want ammunition and alcohol and dope, I want to screw some whores and kill some Iraqi motherfuckers.

As a result, for all its show of honesty about the realities of battle, the anger at loss of life is never quite heartfelt, and the labyrinthine self-pity at the soldier's lot never quite earned. What this book brings home is that the modern soldier or, at least the modern American soldier, buttressed by overwhelming aerial firepower, is essentially a marginal figure. In the aftermath of a war he never really never got to fight, Swofford suggests that 'sometimes you wish you'd killed an Iraqi'.

His experience leaves him with a sense of anticlimax, of unfinished business, a hollowness that his government seems to have shared. Topics Biography books Writers on Iraq. Iraq reviews. Reuse this content. Most popular.

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Anthony Swofford

Jarhead is a Gulf War memoir by author and former U. Marine Anthony Swofford. After leaving military service, the author went on to college and earned a double master's degree in Fine Arts at the University of Iowa. Like most of the troops stationed in the Middle East during the Gulf War, Swofford saw very little actual combat.

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Jarhead : A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles

The title of Anthony Swofford's urgent, harrowing, and wickedly funny memoir Jarhead refers to the "high-and-tight" haircuts worn by Marines during Gulf War I, but the term gets recycled into many other unflattering incarnations: dope, grunt, thug, outcast, sucker. Many potent emotions are kicked up by Swofford's experiences in the Marine Corps—the fear of death and the unknown, the intense bonds and dysfunction of a platoon, the horrors of combat—but he keeps circling back to abandonment, and the feeling that he and his comrades were left twisting in the wind. Brushing aside the war's dubious purpose, which never really registers in their kill-or-be-killed mentality, the men suffer unrelenting indignities before, during, and after the conflict that brings them together because no one else will have them. During the endless downtime in Saudi Arabia, Swofford has his head smashed through a chalkboard by a drill instructor, suffers incredible heat in full gear during a football game staged for the press corps, and tacks his girlfriend's picture onto the "Wall Of Shame," a space that bitterly commemorates infidelity. Once the war starts, he walks in burning oil fields under petroleum rain, gets a firsthand look at the devastation of airstrikes on his Iraqi counterparts, and witnesses corpses being desecrated, all the while fearing for his own fragile mortality and sanity. And then there's the sour aftermath of returning home, where vital years have slipped away, families have moved on with their lives, and the disconnect between Gulf War veterans and the rest of society magnifies the vets' sense of loneliness and alienation.

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