Dexter Filkins joined The New Yorker in January of 2011. He was previously a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, where he covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq beginning in 2001. Before that, he worked for the Los Angeles Times, where he was chief of the paper's New Delhi bureau, and for The Miami Herald. David Halberstam hailed Filkins's work, calling it "reporting of the highest quality imaginable." Filkins has twice been a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, and has won a George Polk Award and two Overseas Press Club awards. Most recently, he was a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University.
Filkins's debut work of nonfiction, The Forever War, shows us the remarkable chain of events that began with the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, continued with the attacks of 9/11, and moved on to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Like no other book, The Forever War allows us a visceral understanding of today's battlefields and of the experiences of the people on the ground, warriors and innocents alike. The Forever War won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Nonfiction Book, and was named a best book of the year by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, and the Boston Globe.
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Dexter Filkins discusses The Forever War
Why did you write The Forever War, and why did you choose that title?
Whenever I went home to the U.S., people would ask me: what's it like over there? What does it feel like? What's it like to be shot at? What's it like to be woken up by a car bomb? What's it like to sleep in a village with no electricity? How do you talk to a warlord? Hence my book: I want to show people what it feels like to be in Iraq and Afghanistan: the ambiguity, the heartbreak, the fear and the joy. It's a visceral book, not really an intellectual one.
As for the title, I should say: the book makes no argument. It is very explicitly not a political book. The title, "The Forever War," is more metaphor than literal truth. (At least I hope it is). The first chapter of the book takes place in 1998, at the Kabul Sports Stadium, at a public execution carried about by the Taliban on a Friday afternoon. It's 2008 now, and we are still at war. I've expended much of my life's energies in those wars. Many of us have. It already feels like forever, and it isn't even over yet.
There are less dangerous posts to be had in the world of reporting - why did you choose to go to Afghanistan and Iraq?
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