What It Is Like to Go to War

by Karl Marlantes Non-fiction

  • US & Canada Grove Atlantic (September 2011, Ed. Morgan Entrekin, 212 pages)
  • UK & Comm Atlantic Books (Ed. Ravi Mirchandani)

What It Is Like To Go To War entered the New York Times hardover non-fiction list at number 13 on publication.

From the author of the bestselling and award-winning Matterhorn, a brilliant nonfiction book about war and the psychological and spiritual toll it takes on those who fight.

In 1969, at the age of twenty-two, Karl Marlantes was dropped into the highland jungle of Vietnam, an inexperienced second lieutenant in command of a platoon of forty Marines who would live or die by his decisions. Marlantes was a bright young man who was well trained for the task at hand but, as he was to discover, far from mentally prepared for what he was about to experience. In his thirteen-month tour he saw intense combat. He killed the enemy and he watched friends die. Marlantes survived, but like many of his brothers in arms, he has spent the last forty years dealing with his experiences.

In What It Is Like to Go to War, Marlantes takes a deeply personal and candid look at what it is like to experience the ordeal of combat, critically examining how we might better prepare our soldiers for war. War is as old as humankind, but in the past, warriors were prepared for battle by ritual, religion and literature--which also helped bring them home. In a compelling narrative, Marlantes weaves riveting accounts of his combat experiences with thoughtful analysis, self-examination and his readings--from Homer to the Mahabharata to Jung. He talks frankly about how he is haunted by the face of the young North Vietnamese soldier he killed at close quarters and how he finally finds a way to make peace with his past. He makes it clear just how poorly prepared our nineteen-year-old warriors — mainly men but increasingly women — are for the psychological and spiritual aspects of the journey.

Just as Matterhorn is already being acclaimed as a classic of war literature, What It Is Like to Go to War is set to become required reading for anyone — soldier or civilian — interested in this visceral and all too essential part of the human experience.
What It Is Like To Go To War US cover