Pumpkinflowers: An Israeli Soldier’s Story
Written by Matti Friedman
Published by Signal / McClelland & Stewart
The most refreshing thing about Pumpkinflowers is that, unlike so many books about the Middle East, it is not a polemic. Matti Friedman succeeds in painting an intimate and honest picture of the lives of Israeli soldiers serving in a camp on the Lebanese border. Using the microcosm of this tiny outpost, the author exposes the agony of ordinary soldiers trapped in a conflict they do not understand—an ordeal that he himself shares when he’s posted to this very exposed spot. His keen eye for detail, masterly writing style, and his balanced, journalistic approach provide a gripping account of a moment in history that would otherwise have been forgotten.
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From the Publisher’s Summary: It was a small hilltop in a small, unnamed war in the late 1990s, but it would send out ripples that continue to emanate worldwide today. The hill was called the Pumpkin; flowers was the military code word for casualties. Friedman’s visceral narrative recreates harrowing wartime experiences in a work that is part frontlines memoir, part journalistic reporting, and part military history. The years in question were pivotal ones, and not just for Israel. They saw the perfection of a type of warfare that would eventually be exported to Afghanistan and Iraq. The new twenty-first century war is one in which there is never any clear victor, and not enough lives are lost to rally the public against it. Eventually Israel would come to realize that theirs was a losing proposition and pull out. But, of course, by then these soldiers—those who had survived—and the country had been wounded in ways large and small.
first book, The Aleppo Codex, won the Sami Rohr Prize, the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Medal, and the Canadian Jewish Book Award. It was selected as one of Booklist‘s top ten religion and spirituality titles in 2013 and received second place for the Religion Newswriters Association’s 2013 nonfiction religion book of the year. Friedman has worked as a correspondent in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press news agency, where he specialized in religion and archaeology, and reported from Lebanon to Morocco, Cairo, Moscow, and Washington, D.C., as well as Israel, the Palestinian territories, and the Caucasus. His work has also appeared in The Atlantic and the New York Times, among other publications. Friedman grew up in Toronto, moved to Israel as a teenager, and served three years in the Israeli military. Today he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children. He lectures frequently in Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States.