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The Forever War Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 16, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 320 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Filkins, a New York Times prize–winning reporter, is widely regarded as among the finest war correspondents of this generation. His richly textured book is based on his work in Afghanistan and Iraq since 1998. It begins with a Taliban-staged execution in Kabul. It ends with Filkins musing on the names in a WWI British cemetery in Baghdad. In between, the work is a vivid kaleidoscope of vig-nettes. Individually, the strength of each story is its immediacy; together they portray a theater of the absurd, in which Filkins, an extraordinarily brave man, moves as both participant and observer. Filkins does not editorialize—a welcome change from the punditry that shapes most writing from these war zones. This book also differs essentially from traditional war correspondence because of its universal empathy, feelings enhanced by Filkins's spare prose. Saudi women in Kabul airport, clad in burqas and stylish shoes, bemoan their husbands' devotion to jihad. An Iraqi casually says to his friend, Let's go kill some Americans. A marine is shot dead escorting Filkins on a photo opportunity. Iraqi soldiers are disconcerted when he appears in running shorts (They looked at [my legs] in horror, as if I were naked). Carl von Clausewitz said war is a chameleon. In vividly illustrating the varied ways people in Afghanistan and iraq have been affected by ongoing war, Filkins demonstrates that truth in prose. 5 photos. (Sept. 17)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Filkins, foreign correspondent for the New York Times, has covered the struggle against Islamic extremism in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. He marshals his broad experience to present a wide-ranging view of this struggle, told through a series of intense, vivid, and startling vignettes. Embedded with marines during the struggle for Fallujah, Filkins describes an almost surreal scene of confusion and unvarnished violence. In Kabul, Filkins witnesses the amputation of a pickpocket’s hand, followed by the execution of an accused murderer under the Taliban regime. At a press briefing, a Taliban “minister of information” recites a litany of forbidden activities that is both absurd and terrifying. An interview with Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir, who bravely fought both the Soviets and the Taliban, is particularly poignant, since he would eventually be assassinated by al-Qaeda operatives. Filkins accompanies Americans searching a Sunni village for insurgents, where their insensitivity probably creates more enemies than they capture. A portrait of the difficulty, complexity, and savagery of a conflict that will be with us for some time. --Jay Freeman

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (September 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307266397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307266392
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (320 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #493,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jon Hunt on October 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Of the dozens of books written about the war in Iraq, along comes Dexter Filkins with a commentary on Iraq that blows the others away. Non-political and highly personal, Filkins goes after the day-to-day story that, through accumulation, delivers a report about the Iraqi citizenry over the years after the invasion. He captures it with style, wisdom and grace.

Americans have largely known the Iraqi war through political slants with a small degree of knowledge of the street. The author adds so much to the discourse. Who knew the depth that kidnapping played or how even going to the bathroom played with both American troops and the Iraqi people, disrupted as it was. This is a book of color and passion. I was particularly moved by a paragraph in which he relates how one would know if an Iraqi was killed by a Sunni or a Shia. The exceptional side of "The Forever War" is not only the presentation of the story but the narrative in which it is told.

Filkins has his own boots on the ground, grinding through Baghdad, Falluja and other hot spots. His book is one of remarkable courage under fire and serves to remind us of what our government simply didn't know about Iraq, or about which it didn't care. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This will, I think, become the classic book of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. It is non-political and consists of multiple snapshots rangng over many years, not always in chronological sequence. These are Filkins's carefully selected memories of his life as a N.Y. Times reporter on the front lines, as well as his experiences on 9/11 at ground zero.

He makes no effort to "explain" the turmoil of the Middle East, but one puts the book down with a new understanding of some of the powerful and destructive forces at play. He is respectful of the U.S. military and his sketches of the bravery of the Americans fighting against bad odds, most of them only teenagers, is very moving.

Politics don't even intrude in the brief chapter on Ahmad Chalabi, it is rather a sketch on the personality of this complex and slippery player in the power struggles of the time.

I recommend this book as a companion to the excellent "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" which documents the appaling stupidity of U.S. policy in Iraq flowing down from the top. The "Forever War" balances that with the street smarts courage of our military. Still, Filkins would, I am sure, agree that imposing "democracy" by military force guarantees a forever war.

This is a powerful book, well and clearly written, by an experienced and compassionate observer.
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Format: Hardcover
I happened to be in New York when Mr. Filkins was giving a reading from this book at the Strand so I stopped by to listen to him read as well as answer questions about his years in Iraq and Afghanistan. This book is probably one of the few written about the wars which does not get involved in making judgments about whether these wars are anything but "forever."
Starting with his witnessing of Taliban "justice" in Kabul in 1998, nearly 20 years after Jimmy Carter decided to start the war in Afghanistan as a trap to lure the Soviets into invading the country and create a Soviet "Vietnam", Filkins shares with us the brutality of that war and the ravages it brought to Afghanistan over a couple of decades. He is able to capture the reasons that the Taliban were reluctantly viewed by the general population as a means to end the bloodshed and blackmail which had seen millions displaced, disfigured and dead over the years. Ironically, Filkins witnessed the amputations and executions in the former soccer stadium the same year that Zbigniew Brzezinski was giving his interview with a French magazine claiming that his advice to Carter to fund the mujahedeen and thus creating "a few stirred up Muslims" was worth the price if it meant the Soviets would end their occupation of his native Poland. Filkins witnessed firsthand just how "stirred up" they became, and how decades later, they are still "stirred up."
Filkins does not get into the "who started what and when" trap in this book, but does show that decisions have consequences and "The Forever War" started long before W even thought about running for president.
If you are looking for a book that points fingers and lays blame, this is not the book for you.
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By Betty on September 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Made In Hero: The War for Soap

Dexter Filkins has written THE FOREVER WAR to tell us about Iraq. Afghanistan is also in there, along with countless other wars not directly visible, though just as bizarre and just as real. More improbable than the wars themselves is what an incredibly beautiful book can be written about their depressing situations. Or put another way, what a beautiful world it would be if everyone could write like this, but without the wars. Filkins offers all the elements of great literature: the sublime, the ridiculous, and the Zen.

On the surface, Dexter Filkins has chronicled his experiences of Afghanistan and Iraq. But aside from his unfiltered impressions of those distant worlds, THE FOREVER WAR really comes down to the personal quest that is likely to greet anyone trying to come home from a war. Reaching the final chapter of THE FOREVER WAR, I was sad. I hadn't wanted the journey to end, and felt a little guilty about that, considering the suffering between the pages. Still, for all the grief and sorrow, THE FOREVER WAR feels like a story about survivors.

The improbability remains. Why the beautiful book about such a doomed affair as THE FOREVER WAR? And what is the Forever War, exactly? Possibly a riddle, or chronicle, or quest? Maybe the definition doesn't matter. Aristotle formulated that writing is catharsis. I wonder if it's an addiction, a kind of cure. Some believe it's an act of redemption. Better yet, Gabriel Garcia Marquez calls writing "a state of grace." Whatever else it is, I hope THE FOREVER WAR is that.
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