Covering war: fiction or non-fiction?

June 22, 2010

Geoff Dyer, writing in The Guardian, reflects on recent war accounts from Iraq and Afghanistan (Sebastian Junger, David Finkel) and, more generally, on the strengths of fiction vs. non-fiction when it comes to transmitting the reality of warfare:

If there were ever a time when the human stories contained within historical events – what Packer calls “the human heart of the matter” – could only be assimilated and comprehended when they had been processed by a novel (War and Peace is the supreme example), that time has passed. (…) In Iraq and Afghanistan we are perhaps glimpsing the end of the era of the combat photographer as a special category of occupation, the twilight of the photographer as novelist in the way that Capa (whose famous photo from the Spanish civil war is now believed to be a fiction) and Eugene Smith were visual novelists.

More here.