A Revolutionary Change of Heart

How a moving essay on war and suffering sprang from a childhood book

U. S. Marines/Flickr
U. S. Marines/Flickr

Phil Klay joins us on the podcast to talk about his essay, “Tales of War and Redemption,” in our Winter issue. It’s an essay that starts on a humorous note, describing the horrible, ridiculously gory deaths of the Christian saints in The Big Book of Martyrs—a comic book for kids. And then he reminds you that he’s been in war, and he’s seen horrible deaths, and horrible suffering. What follows is a beautiful, moving look at suffering, not as sacrifice or cynical constant, but as a reminder of its inverse: joy, of a life lived, or one snuffed out.

Go beyond the episode:

Phil Klay’s recommendations of writers to read after listening:

  • Aleksandar Hemon’s “The Aquarium,” on the death of a child, “is from a firmly non-religious place, but it’s a brilliant and really powerful essay.”
  • Friedrich Schleiermacher’s “Sermon at Nathanael’s Grave” was given at the grave of the theologian’s nine-year-old son in 1929.
  • Karl Marlantes, a Vietnam War veteran and the author of Matterhorn and What It Is Like to Go to War, “argues that combat experience is inescapably spiritual.”
  • Shūsaku Endō’s “body of work is constantly probing questions of suffering and faith,” particularly in the novel Silence.
  • Georges Bernanos’s Diary of a Country Priest has “a wonderful moment where this soldier comes back. His experience in war has radically transformed his relationship, not simply to war, but to the society he comes from—and his sense of whether it’s a just society or not.”

Tune in every two weeks to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.

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Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!

Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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