Phil Klay’s just won the National Book Award, and he talks with Rumpus Interviews Editor Emeritus Rebecca Rubenstein about the repercussions. They also hit on the burden of multiple voices, “entry points”, and what qualifies you to tell a true war story:
Authenticity is a tricky thing. I think perhaps we’re too willing to assume authenticity just because the author has some sort of connection to the experience. Homer, after all, didn’t seem to have known how the Greeks fought in the Bronze Age. If a Trojan War veteran read Homer, he’d probably angrily point out all the inaccuracies. And yet, The Iliad is true to so much of what matters about war. I think it’s less about what you’ve experienced than it is about how honestly and rigorously you try to approach your subject. Tolstoy was able to write authentically about war for the same reason he was able to write authentically about the inner life of a woman having an affair—because he was a great artist with insight into human beings.