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Brian Castner Interviews Matti Friedman about Pumpkinflowers and Gives Insight on "The Forever War."

This Week's Post: 
This week's post, "Echoes of Sassoon: A Conversation with Matti Friedman," comes from BrianPumpkin Flowers Castner, co-editor of The Road Ahead and author of All the Ways We Kill and Die and The Long Walk. He also wrote the foreword for See Me for Who I Am, authored by WWrite blogger, David Chrisinger

Castner interviews award-winning Israeli Canadian author and journalist, Matti Friedman, about his memoir, PumpkinflowersTheir discussion centers on Friedman's experience as an Israeli soldier fighting in southern Lebanon in 1998-1999, a conflict that still has no official name. As Friedman and Castner point out, more Canadian soldiers died in the Great War than in any other conflict, and its influence can be felt throughout Pumpkinflowers.  This puts Friedman at odds with most contemporary American veteran-authors, who often reach to other conflicts for comparison—Vietnam for Iraq, and Korea for Afghanistan, have become typical—when writing about their wars. Don't miss this fascinating post about how and why WWI would color a Canadian’s view of a very different war in Middle East. It will be featured through next week.

PTSD Awareness Month - WW1 gave us the term "shell shock," the words used to describe soldiers who manifested the signs of suffering through a shell blast on the battlefield. Since WWI, shell shock has evolved into a more encompassing term, PTSD, Posttraumatic stress disorder. The definition and symptoms have expanded and include not only psychological but also physical trauma. This month, WWrite Blog Weekend Updates and Posts are introducing literary works dealing with shell shock. In the first week, we started with  Paul Fussell's classic, The Great War and Modern Memory, a work exploring trauma in the writing of Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, Edmund Blunden, David Jones, Isaac Rosenberg, and Wilfred Owen. Last week, we looked briefly at Virginia Woolf's book, Mrs. Dalloway. While not a soldier, Woolf seemed to understand the intricate feelings of isolation associated with PTSD through the character of Septimus, a WWI veteran diagnosed with shell shock, in her chef d'oeuvre.

Freud with sons*Treating soldiers after WWI gave Sigmund Freud more evidence that past experiences influenced present thoughts and behaviors (a novel idea at the time!). His encounters with these veterans surprised him as their combat dreams brought them back repeatedly to the violent scenes they'd witnessed. Previously, he had shown that dreams could be analyzed as "wish fulfillments." Why would an encounter with death repeatedly appear in a dream? From WWI on, his theories concentrated further on the ways civilization and historical events affected the psyche.

Today, it is agreed that one of the hallmark ways of talking about PTSD is to acknowledge that the traumatic experience is not simply a painful memory from the past. Instead, this past experience feels fresh and seems to happen "in real time." Suffering persons are affected by the memory of the event in the present almost as if this event were occurring, again, for the first time. Due to the fact that American's most recent wars are not over, it would seem that recovery from PTSD symptoms resulting from these conflicts would present a monumental challenge for the veteran. A returned serviceperson trying to adapt to civilian life continues to be bombarded by media and other sources describing events unfolding in Iraq or Afghanistan. How would it be possible to move on? In a segment made for the PBS Newshour, Brian Castner addresses this specificity of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he fears might never end.

Brian Castner, "The Forever War"

Date: May 26, 2017

Sometimes author Brian Castner asks himself, “How many tours would have been enough to know, deep down in my bones, that I had done my part?” After three tours, Castner got home from Iraq a decade ago. But the war isn’t over; it’s just gone on without him. Castner gives his humble opinion on why being a veteran today feels like having unfinished business.

Freud Photo Credit:Freud with sons Ernst (left) and Martin. Salzburg, August 1916. Carl Ellinger, photographer. Prints & Photographs Division. Library of Congress (176) (LC-USZ62-119768)


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