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Craig Jones

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Bausch, Richard
Random House Inc
Publish date: 2008-04-15
Out of Print


Italy, near CassinoThe terrible winter of 1944A dismal icy rain, continuing unabated for daysGuided by a seventy-year-old Italian man in rope-soled shoes, three American soldiers are sent on a reconnaissance mission up the side of a steep hill that they discover, before very long, to be a mountainAnd the old man's indeterminate loyalties only add to the terror and confusion that engulf them on that mountain, where they are confronted with the horror of their own time-and then set upon by a sniperTaut and propulsive-with its spare language, its punishing landscape, and the keenly drawn portraits of the three young soldiers at its center-Peace is a feat of economy, compression, and imagination, a brutal and unmistakably contemporary meditation on the corrosiveness of violence, the human cost of war, and the redemptive power of mercy.


Peace by Richard Bausch (Knopf) is a deftly distilled vignette describing a few days in the lives of a squad of American infantrymen in WWIIThey are on a reconnaissance mission in Italy, shortly after the invasionThey are the usual mix of urban and rural, young and not so young, Jew and Christian and nothing muchIt's cold and rainy and miserableEarly on they come upon an Italian with a cartload of hay that conceals a German soldier and a prostituteThe soldier kills two of their number before Robert Marson kills the soldierAfter a moment, SgtGlick shoots the prostituteWhen they are overtaken the next day by a tank battalion, Glick reports the incident but lies about the woman's death, saying she was "killed in the crossfire." They continue their plodding mission, but Marson is changed by the shootingAlthough he's seen plenty of death since his landing in Italy, and he's sure he's caused the death of many of the enemy, the soldier is the first person he's killed face to faceThat and the gratuitous killing of the non-combatant gnaw at himHe's cold and hungry and has a blistered foot that causes him constant pain and he knows that every second he may be shot at by his German counterparts; yet he must also confront his moral continenceBausch is best known for his short stories, though he's written eleven novelsPeace, at fewer than 200 pages, is a hybrid productThe economy of his prose and his purposeful focus make the novel's length just rightHe describes both the quotidian and the hair-raising details of a foot soldier's life, then juxtaposes these with the necessity to confront moral questions, even (or perhaps especially) in extreme circumstancesThe choices Marson makes in subsequent circumstances are colored by this one eventBy the novel's end he's not come to any satisfactory conclusions, but he's taken back his own moral autonomyI found Peace both heartbreaking and upliftingAs the father of a soldier returned from a tour in Afghanistan, I know that all the wounds of war are not physicalI also know that such wounds are perhaps best healed by one's own hand, and that redemption is never impossibleBausch eloquently depicts these truths in Peace.