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The Afghan Campaign: A Novel Paperback – June 5, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


“Pressfield has done it again. The Afghan Campaign is yet another gripping historical novel . . . Although set in ancient times, Pressfield’s narration of the Macedonians’ efforts reveals remarkable parallels to later efforts by the Romans, British, Soviets, and Americans . . . an intense, fun, and thought-provoking read. It belongs on your shelf.”
T. X. Hammes, Marine Corps Gazette
Pressfield's scholarly skills are part and parcel of his impressive talent for re-creating the visceral, scalp-carving, lance-in-back horror of ancient battle.”
—USA Today

“Fasinating . . . As Patrick O'Brien's prose seemed to encapsulate the feel of the Napoleonic-era warship, Pressfield's crisp and eloquent style reconstitutes the ancient battlefield.”

About the Author

steven pressfield is the author of the historical novels Gates of Fire, The Virtues of War, Tides of War, and Last of the Amazons. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (June 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767922387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767922388
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steven Pressfield is the author of Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Last of the Amazons, Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign, Killing Rommel, The Profession, The Lion's Gate, The War of Art, Turning Pro, The Authentic Swing, Do the Work and The Warrior Ethos.

His debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was adapted for screen. A film of the same title was released in 2000, directed by Robert Redford and starring Matt Damon, Will Smith and Charlize Theron.

His father was in the Navy, and he was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1943. Since graduating from Duke University in 1965, he has been a U.S. Marine, an advertising copywriter, schoolteacher, tractor-trailer driver, bartender, oilfield roustabout, attendant in a mental hospital and screenwriter.

His struggles to earn a living as a writer (it took seventeen years to get the first paycheck) are detailed in The War of Art, Turning Pro and The Authentic Swing.

There's a recurring character in his books, named Telamon, a mercenary of ancient days. Telamon doesn't say much. He rarely gets hurt or wounded. And he never seems to age. His view of the profession of arms is a lot like Pressfield's conception of art and the artist:

"It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior's life."

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Steffen White on July 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In 1981's "Excalibur," director John Boorman warns us through Merlin: "For it is the doom of men that they forget."

Not so Steven Pressfield, who repeatedly holds up the past as a mirror to our present--and never more devastatingly than in his latest and most brilliant novel, "The Afghan Campaign."

Matthias, a young Greek seeking glory and opportunity, signs up with the army of Alexander the Great. But the Persian Empire has fallen, and the days of conventional, set-piece battles where everyone can instantly tell friend from foe are over.

Alexander next plans to conquer India, but first he must pacify its gateway--Afghanistan. It is here, for the first time, that the Macedonians meet an enemy unlike any other. "Here the foe does not meet us in pitched battle," warns Alexander. "Even when we defeat him, he will no accept our dominion. He comes back again and again. He hates us with a passion whose depth is exceeded only by his patience and his capacity for suffering."

Matthias learns this early. In his first raid on an Afghan village, he's ordered to execute a helpless prisoner. When he refuses, he's brutalized until he strikes out with his sword--and then botches the job. But, soon, exposed to an unending series of atrocities--committed by himself and his comrades, as well as the enemy--he finds himself transformed.

It is not a transformation he expected--or relishes. He agonizes over the gap between the ideals he meant to embrace when he became a soldier--and the brutalities that have drained him of everything but a grim determination to survive at any cost.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Chuckleberry on July 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Though Pressfield draws many intriguing and insightful connections from Alexander's Afghan war to conflicts in the region at present, the parallels are not what makes the book the masterpiece it is. Indeed, it is merely a patch in the great mosaic he has created for the reader; one must not overlook the other outstanding qualities inherent in the characters and the myriad emotions and trials they go through. For the book is about many things. It is that ageless story of an innocent transformed into a heartless instrument of war, of forbidden love, and of friendship bolstered by blood. Romance, war, horror, and tragedy. The reader will find all of these in "The Afghan Campaign."

The book follows a young Macedonian youth named Matthias, who enlists as a mercenary in Alexander's army as it leaves the glories and supreme wealth of Persia. Matthias and his lifelong friend, Lucas, are eager to join up with relatives already in service and to partake in the triumphs of conquest. Yet, in Afghanistan, the foe will not fight a conventional battle. Using guerilla tactics and unspeakable acts of torture, the various tribes of the region, under the command of Spitamenes (who manages to outwit even Alexander), lure the undefeated army into a hellish conflict. Falling in with a group of hardened veterans (each one a memorable and intriguing character), Matthias and Lucas struggle to stay alive, safeguard their friends, and salvage what little bit of humanity they can out of a war where massacre and apathy are the norm.

The best attribute of the book is the sense of realism. Pressfield tosses you a half-pike and sends you into the unforgiving mountains of tribal Afghanistan.
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50 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Joe T. on July 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Steven Pressfield transports readers to another time and place like no author I've read since James Clavell's Shogun. Having read each of his previous novels, I've been anxiously waiting for "The Afghan Campaign." It's exceeded my every expectation. He puts flesh and bone on the historical skeleton of Alexander's campaigns, then fills the veins with blood. If you want to understand why Afghanistan became a graveyard for the Soviet army, or gain a whole new level of sympathy and respect for American troops serving there now, read this book. And if you're a writer or a would-be writer, watch how this master of the craft makes a foreign landscape become so real that you can almost remember having been there yourself.

One warning: if you do pick up "The Afghan Campaign,: you might also want to get some Visine, because once you start reading, it's probably going to be the middle of the night before you finally put it down.
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Format: Hardcover
Steven Pressfield is on the short list of great historical fiction authors, and maybe just plain authors. His novels of ancient Greece ("Gates of Fire," "Tides of War," "Last of the Amazons," and "The Virtues of War") reimagine an ancient Greece filled with poetry, nobility, sorrow, valor, and, perhaps greatest of all, crystallizing insight into the human condition.

"The Afghan Campaign" is an excellent addition to Pressfield's stellar bibliography. Timely, impeccably researched, and riveting, this is one of those "unputdownable" books.

This is Pressfield's second novel about the campaigns of Alexander the Great, following "The Virtues of War." But, unlike "Virtues, where Pressfield put himself inside the head of Alexander himself, "Afghan Campaign" is narrated by Matthias, lowly ranker in the Macedonian army. This is a plus, since Pressfield's protagonist is a wholly fictional character and we don't have to worry about whether he's "getting Alexander right" on every page.

Matthias is also a wonderful character in his own right, and speaks with a straightforward soldier's jargon that is surprisingly charming. Those charms are among the few in the book, however, as the novel explores the clash of cultures between Greece (and, by implication, Western civilization) and the various tribes and clans of Afghanistan. The "Mack" soldiers are repeatedly shocked, horrified, and traumatized by the brutality of the people they have come to "civilize." Several times I had to put down the book for a few minutes to absorb the shock of what I had just read . . . testament to Pressfield's magnificent prose.
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