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P. 1
The Watch

The Watch



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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.
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.

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Publish date: Jun 5, 2012
Added to Scribd: Sep 06, 2013
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9780307402523
List Price: $19.95 Buy Now


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knittingmomof3 reviewed this
Rated 5/5
The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya is positively brilliant offering varying perspectives and gives one pause to re-evaluate one's beliefs of war and good vs. evil.
litfan_1 reviewed this
Rated 5/5
A kaleidoscopic meditation on the cost of war, this beautifully written novel challenges the notion of good guys and bad guys in combat and shows the reader the abundant gray area inherent in battle. It's the story of an Afghan woman who goes to a U.S. military base to claim her brother's body for a proper burial, after he is killed in a firefight. Each chapter is told from a different character's perspective, which saves the novel from focusing on which side is "right" or "wrong" and zeroes in instead on the collective effect of the conflict.There are some graphic scenes; the author doesn’t pull any punches describing the realities of war. The story feels gritty and real, and it is fascinating and haunting to see the differences in each character's perception of the situation based on their own background and experiences. The best and the worst of humanity are present, with a great deal in between. Deeply impactful and highly recommended.
timbazzett reviewed this
Rated 5/5
How to describe a book like THE WATCH? The publishers say it's a modern retelling of Sophocles' ANTIGONE, which is one hell of a hat trick to pull off (and author Roy-Bhattacharya succeeds admirably in this), but it is so much more than that. It is, perhaps more than anything else, an indictment of war itself, as well as a deeply felt homage to the men who fight our wars. Using several narrators in the course of the story, Roy-Bhattacharya deftly manages to convey the horror, the suffering, and the ultimate futility and waste of war. The central Afghan character is a woman grieviously wounded by the war who has lost her whole family to an American drone attack directed by faulty intelligence. Nizam, like Antigone, wants only to bury her dead brother Yusuf, known also as "Prince of the Mountains." Yusuf had led an attack on the isolated American garrison in a futile attempt to avenge his family. The crippled Nizam is single-minded and unmoving in her quest, explaining to the Americans "the duty that I must perform" -"I will dig the grave and place him in it, with his body facing the Quibla. Then I will say a prayer, pour three handfuls of soil over him, and recite: 'We created you from it, and return you into it, and from it we will raise you a second time.'..."Reading of this intended ritual, I could not help but notice the similarities to the Christian ritual of Ash Wednesday, with its prayer, "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return." Another recent book about American misadventures in the Mideast also came to mind, Benjamin Busch's fine memoir, DUST TO DUST. Although Busch served with Marines in Iraq, his book could easily be read as an appropriate companion piece to THE WATCH. In fact, like Roy-Bhattacharya's fictional Lt Nick Frobenius, Busch was a Vassar graduate.There are so many stories within this novel that it approaches the status of epic. There is the career soldier in First Sergeant Marcus Whalen, a blues devotee raised by an aunt in Baton Rouge. And the medic, Sgt Taylor, responsible for the health of the whole garrison and charged with the safekeeping of the body of the slain Yusuf. There is 2Lt Garrison, a by-the-book officer who undergoes a transformation as he watches the vigil of the wounded girl outside the gates of the fort. There is the secretly gay company sniper, Simonis, an instrument of death, who ascribes to the "don't tell" rule, even as he is enticed the sexually ambiguous Afghan interpreter, Masood (who is presented in the narrative as the Greek character Ismene). Captain Connoly, the garrison commander, could perhaps be seen as Creon, trying to follow the military and political rules of engagement, cynically suspicious of the motives of Nizam/Antigone. But he too undergoes a gradual change, so perhaps the Creon figure here is represented by something else, something more shadowy and evil, as expressed by Lt Frobenius, a student of the Classics -"Creons, man, he says. We're run by a bunch of (expletive) Creons. His face twists with loathing ... [Creon] was a tyrant and a dictator, but he had nothing on these clowns. They're all suit and no soul. I tell you, man, the military is the only institution left in America with any conception of honor ... Think courage, endurance, integrity, judgement, justice, loyalty, discipline, knowledge. The rest of them - the civilian leadership, especially - are just a pile of crap. They've absolutely no vision. The politicians are shameless: all they care about is power. And the big businessmen and bankers look after their own ..." The rant continues, but you get the idea. And Frobenius is not the only one with ideals. Even the Tajik interpreter, Masood, whose whole family was wiped out by the Taliban, has his vision, telling Simonis -"I would like to tell all Americans - and I'm starting with you - that we need you to remain here until there is peace in our lands. Don't abandon us prematurely. You hold the responsibility for an entire people in your hands ... and the only mistake you've made so far is your support for our present government, which is completely self-serving and corrupt." With its distinctly drawn characters, both American and Afghan, officers and enlisted, THE WATCH presents an even-handed and microcosmic picture of the mess that is the American occupation of Afghanistan. The author manages to cover a wide spectrum of the devastation caused - from the annihilation of whole families and tribes on the Afghan side to the destroyed dreams, marriages, and lives of the soldiers serving far from family and home. Roy-Bhattacharya has done his homework and it shows, in writing which ranges from the sublime, in the dreamlike sequences scattered throughout the novel, to the profane, in the obscenity-laced language of the soldiers, with addled conversations which combine references to Ozymandias and Ozzy Osbourne and bands with names like Gethsemane and Dream Paranoia. The author is obviously even conversant in the near-insane language of contemporary music and chooses the names he uses with care, names that resonate and blend well in his story.THE WATCH is such an artistically complex accomplishment that I have barely skimmed its surface here. It is a book that should be read by politicians, but I don't hold out much hope that it will be. It will leave its readers with much to think about. I thought of other books I've read, which are somehat similar. I've already mentioned Benjamin Busch's memoir. But there is also Helen Bendict's fine novel, SAND QUEEN, about the plight of women in these misbegotten wars, both the civilian victims and the military women in our own armed forces. Or Britisher Patrick Hennessey's memoir of his military service in both Iraq and Afghanistan, THE JUNIOR OFFICERS' READING CLUB. Or from the Vietnam era, Sigrid Nunez's fine novel, FOR ROUENNA. There are connections galore, I'm sure. But THE WATCH may well indeed stand alone, as its publishers hope, as a singularly significant novel of the war in Afghanistan. I for one will not soon forget it. I recommend it highly.
tottman_1 reviewed this
Rated 5/5
The Watch is a powerful and moving story. Based on the greek play, Antigones, it is updated and set in present day Afghanistan. The story is told and retold from multiple perspectives, overlapping both in time and in vantage point. The novel takes a story that starts out two-dimensionally and builds it into a three-dimensional image with each character’s perspective. Layer upon layer is added brilliantly to the narrative. It captures the intensity, confusion and conflict both internally and externally. The characters are real and have great depth. Aside from a sometimes unusual familiarity with greek literature, they feel very real. They are extraordinary in their ordinariness. One of the areas where the author excels is in displaying how different actions may be interpreted depending on the perspective from which you view them. Actions, and the intentions behind them, can be interpreted or misinterpreted..I am a big fan of multiple first-person perspective and the author uses it to great effect here. The way the story unfolds requires you to continually examine and reexamine what you thought you knew. You walk in the steps of each of these characters, you live in their minds. Roy-Bhattacharya powerfully evokes the emotional state of each character to create an incredibly moving work. This is a novel that pulls you in and makes you feel you are standing alongside the characters. The action pieces spring on you with a suddenness that makes it all the more stunning and powerful. This is a beautiful and heartfelt work, reminiscent of Slaughterhouse Five. It is intense and will resonate long after you put it down. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book. Highly recommended.
cathyskye reviewed this
Rated 3/5
First Lines: One. Two. Three. Four. I count the moments and say the Basmala in my head.The American soldiers in Combat Outpost Tarsándan deep in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan have just been through a fierce all-night battle. Several of them have been killed. The survivors are exhausted, upset and on edge. It is not the best time for Nizam to come to claim the body of her brother, but that is exactly what she's done.Nizam, the rest of whose family was killed by the bomb-dropping drone that took both her legs, insists on giving her brother a proper burial, but the soldiers can't trust her. She could be a spy, a lunatic, or a suicide bomber. Besides, the chain of command believes her brother to have been a Taliban leader, and his body is to be sent elsewhere to be made an example of. Nizam insists this isn't true and refuses to leave, forcing this beleaguered group of soldiers to make a tough decision. What are they going to do? See this dilemma solely in terms of black and white-- or in shades of grey? Follow orders, or do what's right?The story begins from Nizam's point of view, and the author immediately puts the reader on her side-- feeling her pain, her exhaustion and her grief. It is a powerful beginning which then shifts to the men inside the outpost. The clock is turned back a couple of days, showing the time leading up to the deadly attack and its aftermath, which explains the soldiers' emotional mindsets.Chapter by chapter, we're introduced to them and to the Afghan interpreter assigned to the outpost. As the story advances and the reader compares the American point of view to Nizam's, the misunderstandings that lead to the final outcome are clear.Some of the men are educated and have made at least a rudimentary effort to learn something about the area, its people, its customs and language. However, most of the soldiers are barely in their twenties and have chosen a life in the military for the paycheck. For these soldiers, it was a choice of the army or a "life in methland." They've made no effort to learn anything about the country they're in or about the people who live there. It's a recipe for disaster.From the strong, emotional beginning, the book eventually began to lose some momentum for me. The author had a set way of introducing the soldiers, and this formulaic method made many of them appear one-dimensional. The exception to this was the interpreter, a young man who naively believed that all the soldiers were wealthy, well-educated, and in Afghanistan to fight for the ideals of freedom and justice. Since those are two things that he desperately desires for his country, when he's asked to interpret for the soldiers and for Nizam, too often he puts his own feelings above the need for accurate translation.In the end, I found a great deal to admire in the book, but I believe the author tried too hard to get the point across that America must get out of Afghanistan. Nizam was in the right; the Americans were in the wrong. Seldom in life are things so cut and dried. How much more powerful the message would have been if truths had been dispensed with an even hand.

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P. 1
The Watch