My Life as a Foreign Country
Available Now: W. W. Norton & Company •
Jonathan Cape/Random House (UK)
A war memoir of unusual literary beauty and power from the acclaimed poet who wrote the poem “The Hurt Locker.”
In 2003, Sergeant Brian Turner crossed the line of departure with a convoy of soldiers headed into the Iraqi desert. Now, each night beside his sleeping wife, he imagines himself as a drone aircraft, hovering over the terrains of Bosnia and Vietnam, Iraq and Northern Ireland, the killing fields of Cambodia and the death camps of Europe—a landscape of ongoing violence, revealing all that man has done to man.
“In Brian Turner’s extraordinarily capable hands, language is war’s undoing, in the sense that his words won’t allow absurdity and terror to be anything less than real. My Life as a Foreign Country is lyrical and restless, both ironic and profoundly empathic.”
In this breathtaking memoir, Turner retraces his war experience— pre-deployment to combat zone, homecoming to aftermath. Free of self-indulgence or self-glorification, his account combines recollection with the imagination’s efforts to make reality comprehensible. Across time, he seeks parallels in the histories of others who have gone to war, especially his taciturn grandfather (World War II), father (Cold War), and uncle (Vietnam). Through it all, Turner paints a devastating portrait of what it means to be a soldier and a human being.
“Turner’s voice is prophetic, an eerie calm in the midst of calamity…as precise as a bullet, as all-encompassing as the apocalypse. One question echoes through these pages: How does someone leave a war behind and walk into the rest of their life? My Life as a Foreign Country holds a mirror up to what propels us, over and over, into those wars, and serves as a reminder that, in the end, war is simply about counting the dead. Achingly, disturbingly, shockingly beautiful.” —Nick Flynn, author of The Reenactments and The Ticking Is the Bomb
“A brilliant fever dream of war’s surreality, its lastingness, its place in families and in the fate of nations. Each sentence has been carefully measured, weighed with loss and vitality, the hard-earned language of a survivor who has seen the world destroyed and written it back to life. This is a profound and beautiful work of art.” — Benjamin Busch, author of Dust to Dust
“My Life as a Foreign Country is brilliant and beautiful. It surely ranks with the best war memoirs I’ve ever encountered — a humane, heartbreaking, and expertly crafted work of literature.” —Tim O’Brien
“Brian Turner has given us not so much a memoir as a meditation, rendered with grace and wit and wisdom. If you want to know what modern soldiers see when they look at their world, read this book.” — Larry Heinemann, author of Paco’s Story, recipient of the National Book Award
Praise for the UK edition
“What I love about My Life as A Foreign Country is its weird laugh-out-loud mood, and its in-the-thick-of-it hyper-sensual ability to capture beauty in the midst of terror. In these pages, home-spun truths sit alongside quotes from Marcus Aurelius, Walt Whitman and The Bhagavad Gita. My Life ... is the melted-down language of a dream despatch from a capacious-hearted warrior poet.” —Daljit Nagra, author of Ramayana and Tippoo Sultan’s Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy-Machine