Jonathan Fein On:
Ten Kliks South by Phil Klay
Ten kliks south—that is the location of the first human target of gun number six, which belongs to the artillery team of the story’s narrator, an American Marines artilleryman in Fallujah, Iraq. From the moment the shot is fired, the laconic coordinate becomes a center of undefined curiosity for the nameless protagonist. “I knew ten kliks south of us is a cratered area riddled with shrapnel and ruined buildings, burned-out vehicles and twisted corpses,” he says, but he needs more. While the short, minor journey on which he embarks when his teammates go to bed does not take him ten kilometers south, it does bring him slightly closer to the verge of understanding the greatest mystery to us mortals. Through brave choices and simple language, dotted with lyrical moments, author Phil Klay, who was awarded the National Book Award for this collection of short stories, leads us into the inner workings of the utterly palpable reality of an artillery battery in Fallujah—a glimpse away from man’s darkest, most desired destination.