It was one small hilltop in a small, unnamed war in the late 1990s, but it would send out ripples still felt worldwide today. The hill, in Lebanon, was called the Pumpkin; 'flowers' was the military code word for casualties. Award-winning writer Matti Friedman re-creates the harrowing, otherworldly experiences of a band of young men, plucked by conscription from westernised boyhoods, and charged with holding this remote outpost - a pointless task that changed them forever and foreshadowed the unwinnable conflicts the United States would soon confront in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Part memoir, part reportage, part elegy for lost youth, this powerful narrative captures the birth of today's chaotic Middle East and the rise of a 21st century type of war in which there is never a clear victor, and innocence is not the only casualty.
Raw and beautifully rendered, Pumpkin flowers will take its place among classic war narratives by George Orwell, Philip Caputo, Vasily Grossman and Micahel Herr. It is an unflinching look at the way we conduct war today
'Throughout, the author grapples with questions regarding both Israeli aggression and the nature of the state's survival. In a chilling final section, he chronicles his travels as a Canadian tourist to his former combat zone in Lebanon, encountering friendly residents in thrall to Hezbollah and seething with anti-Semitism. A haunting yet wry tale of young people at war, cursed by political forces beyond their control, that can stand alongside the best narrative nonfiction coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq.' Kirkus Review
'Pumpkinflowers is a beautifully written insight into the day-to-day realities of what it's like being a soldier and the often boring reality of war. No former soldier who has spent hours manning guard-posts during his military service could remain indifferent to such lines as "sometimes you took over one of the guard-posts, checked your watch an hour later, and found that five minutes had passed". Friedman's book is... a powerful portrait of men in war.' - Ahron Bregman. Read the full review in the Jewish Chronicle
"Matti Friedman's haunting war memoir reminds one of Michael Herr's unforgettable Vietnam memoir, Dispatches. It, too, is destined to become a classic text on the absurdities of war. Evocative, emotionally wrenching, and yet clear-eyed and dispassionate, Pumpkinflowers is a stunning achievement." - Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and New York Times bestselling author of The Good Spy; "Inspiring, heartbreaking, illuminating." - Yossi Klein Halevi, author of Like Dreamers; "Riveting. Pumpkinflowers is both an historical jigsaw puzzle and an examination of Israel's fraught national identity." - Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know Where the Men Are Gone; "A haunting yet wry tale of young people at war, cursed by political forces beyond their control, that can stand alongside the best narrative nonfiction coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq." - Kirkus Reviews; "The collective portrait [of young Israeli soldiers] puts Pumpkinflowers on a par with Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried - its Israeli analog." - New York Times; "A book about young men transformed by war, written by a veteran whose dazzling literary gifts gripped my attention from the first page to the last." - Wall Street Journal; "Pumpkinflowers is a sad, lyrical book-proud and fierce on its own terms. Friedman's prose is elegant and concise, yet it is studded with gems from the Talmud and Torah that only a writer deeply learned in the Jewish tradition could offer. His memoirs of his time in the mist and the mountains of Lebanon are full of haunting insights into what it means to be a soldier. It will be remembered as a classic." - Prospect