Friday, August 20, 2010

Karl Marlantes

Karl Marlantes, who served as a marine in Vietnam and was awarded numerous medals including two Purple Hearts, is the author of Matterhorn, a novel about his experience of combat in the jungle.

From his Q & A with Chris Faatz at

Chris Faatz: Matterhorn is an exceedingly complex and visually rendered tale of young men at war. Does the story accurately reflect your own experience in Vietnam? Is it more or less autobiographical?

Karl Marlantes: Well, I'm not like any of the characters, really. If I had to chose the one most like me, I'd pick Cortell, who's more of a minor character. Like him, I'm more of the introverted, quiet type. I'm not a politician, like Mellas. If I were as good as he was, I'd be a lot richer and a lot more powerful. [Laughter] But what the characters see — almost all of it — I myself experienced. I was in firefights. I assaulted hills. I saw a guy, not in my company but in the same battalion, get eaten by a tiger. So, all of those things are pretty much true.

Of course, the dialogue is pure fiction. But a lot of what the characters see are things that I experienced or that were similar to my experiences as a second lieutenant — and those were similar to the experiences of thousands of soldiers that went over there. In that sense, we're all the same. So is that autobiographical? I don't know.

Faatz: Well, I'd say it's somewhat autobiographical, because it reflects your experiences, even if it's in a more general sense.

Marlantes: Oh, no doubt about it. I don't have that good of an imagination. [Laughter]

Faatz: How long did it take you to write the book?

Marlantes: I first started writing it about 1975.

Faatz: Wow.

Marlantes: And I started...[read on]
See Karl Marlantes' top ten war stories.

--Marshal Zeringue