for Achilles In Vietnam

Editorial Comment from VVHP:

One of the most difficult things to do in writing a book is to make its subject matter and presentation attractive across a broad range of disciplines while maintaining a high-caliber offering to each of those independant areas of interest. We believe that was accomplished with Dr. Shay's book.

The following sampling of reviews, from a multitude of disciplines ranging from history, military courses, literature, psychology, psychiatry, classics to journalism, indicates the appropriateness of this book for each area of study; a truly unique and remarkable accomplishment. So don't just read it; USE it if you are a teacher - SHARE it if nothing else.

These reviews, done by prominent sources within each field, provide evidence that Achilles In Vietnam is a valuable tool of interdiciplanary application. As you will see, each of the fields find merits of its own.

By Jonathan Shay, M.D., Ph.D.
Published By Atheneum
(imprint of Macmillan), May, 1994
Touchstone Paperback
(imprint of Simon & Schuster), 1995

Vietnam Veterans, Active Duty Military, and Military Historians:

"Jonathan Shay has made an important and valuable contribution not only to the clinical body of work regarding PTSD and its treatment but to the literature of the Vietnam War. This is not only a book for clinicians but for veterans themselves, their loved ones, and all who wish to understand the Vietnam experience."

Colonel Bob Rheault (retired), Commander, 5th Special Forces Group, Vietnam, 68 - 69; founder and director of Outward Bound Program for Veterans with PTSD

"ACHILLES IN VIETNAM is clearly one of the most original and most important scholarly works to have emerged from the Vietnam War. Beyond that, it is also an intensely moving work, intensely passionate, reaching back through the centuries to touch and heal."

Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried, Looking for Cacciato, and other novels

"This is the most important book the reviewer has read in this decade, perhaps in his professional life. It speaks to him as a historian across 3,000 years of military history, as a professional military officer whose commission "reposed special trust and confidence," as a citizen of a bureaucratic democratic state, and as a husband and father. Were it in the reviewer's power, no officer would be allowed to swear the oath of commission until he had read this book.

". . . were I in charge, this book would be required reading throughout the entire Army and Marine Corps and recommended reading for every leader, supervisor, and father."

Douglas V. Johnson, U.S. Army War College, Parameters: U.S. Army War College Quarterly 24: 133-135 (1995)

". . . this book shows clearly that both human nature and the basic nature of war at the level of the foot soldier have not changed in 3,000 years. Indeed, it is the stories of the veterans in this book, as well as Shay's astute analysis of the human psyche and his inventive linking of his patients' symptoms to the actions of the characters in Homer's classic story, that make this book well worth reading for anyone who would lead troops in both peace and war."

Thomas E. Neven, Marine Corps Gazette, January, 1995, pp. 79-80

"Jonathan Shay has written a fascinating book that is simultaneously brilliant on Greek classics and the Vietnam War, on modern psychiatry and the archetypes of human struggle. And on top of that it says something that is directly meaningful to the way many of us live our lives. Remarkable."

Robert Olin Butler,
author of A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain [Pulitzer Prize]

"For a combat veteran who has no formal training in the classics, Achilles in Vietnam is a bolt of lightning cracking through the ages. What was then is now, and I felt that in Jonathan Shay's analysis. For literary and historical scholars it is a challenge in its insight. For the psychologist and psychiatrist it gives me pause to wonder, what the hell have you been doing all these years? Pick up this work of art and use it."

Rod Kane, author of Veteran's Day

"Poetry, psychiatry, and horror are joined in this remarkable book."

Daniel Ford, author of Incident at Muc Wa [Book for Go Tell the Spartans]

"Following the best traditions of Ardant du Picq, SLA Marshall, and John Keegan, Dr. Jonathan Shay has produced an exemplary contribution to the study of men in battle. Combining his unique perspectives on ancient combat with years of medical experience dealing with Vietnam veterans, this book breaks new ground in literature, history, and psychology."

Colonel Conrad Crane, Department Of History,
United States Military Academy, West Point

"Must reading for mental health professionals who work with Vietnam Veterans -- or veterans of any war."

John Sommer, Jr., Executive Director,
American Legion National Headquarters and Vietnam combat medic, 1968

"What a splendid book. . . . I know of nothing in the literature quite like it. . . . . [Written] with great moral passion, yet in an irenic spirit, . . . without giving up hope for reform. . . . [This] book about pain has an oddly consoling and uplifting quality."

John E. Talbott, Professor of History,
University of California, Santa Barbara,
Professor of Strategy, U.S. Naval War College (1981-82)

"Achilles in Vietnam is a stunning achievement. Your insights into Vietnam would be valuable in themselves, but the way you weave them into a much broader tapestry makes the book one of lasting importance. So many of the issues you raise form a part of the very bedrock of man's behavior in warfare: morality, guilt, 'friendly' fire, luck, and so on - they're all there.

"There were several of those moments (Gods as REMFs was a classic) that most authors fear, when I would read something you'd written and smite myself on the forehead, muttering 'Of course! That's it! Why have I never been able to say it myself?'"

Richard Holmes, Royal Military College of Science,
Shrivenham, England,
Author of Acts of War: The Behavior of Men in Battle

Short of ending warfare as our way of solving problems, Shay calls upon us to assert our own humanity in ways that lessen the damage we do to our own people. He is asking us to refuse complicity in the kind of betrayal that robs individuals and society of physical and moral well-being.

Shay's voice is informed and impassioned. Achilles in Vietnam should be required reading for all present and future government and military leaders. It is a valuable and inspirational text for all citizens.

Philip K. Jason, Professor of English, United States Naval Academy,
in Magill Literary Annual, 1995

Achilles in Vietnam is an excellent teaching tool for courses in military history, classical literature, and recent history. I plan to assign it in my course on the Vietnam War. This book should be read by our political and military leaders, veterans and their families, and every American citizen that really wants to support our troops.

Richard R. Moser, The Journal of Military History 50: 364-365 (1995)

Psychiatrists and psychologists:

"Achilles in Vietnam . . . is destined to become a modern classic, just like the ancient classic upon which his book is based. This is because the book gets to the essence of the veteran and represents a delightfully brilliant integration of history, art, psychiatry, and science. As such, it should enjoy broad interdisciplinary appeal to professional and to lay audiences as well.

"The volume is written by a psychiatrist experienced in the effects of combat trauma. In Achilles, Shay takes the reader into the mind, body, spirit, and soul of survivors--to the intensities of cognito-affective secrets buried deeply in physical pain and mental agony, in the terror and horror so many have endured, in the grotesque imagery, and in the rhythmic sounds of dying and death. . . .

"Achilles in Vietnam ends with a discussion of 'Healing and Tragedy.' Shay offers no easy solutions, nor does he make the mistake of offering empty reassurances of cure . . . Because so much is lost in trauma, Shay reminds us that Homer ended the Iliad 'with mourning, not reassurance.' . . .

"If the reader is interested in one book that cuts through the empty popular practice of PTSD symptom-recitals, and gets down to explicating how war damages the mind, spirit, and body, and how loss of authority over mental and social functions, confusion, despair, and hopelessness can be transformed into a personal program of restoration, Shay's book has to be the book of choice."

Erwin R. Parson, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief,
Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy 24: 65-69 (1994)

"Once in a while a book comes along which is truly therapeutic. Achilles in Vietnam . . . has integrated for me, many diverse elements weaving and woven through the fabric of my own life and practice."

Deborah Gilman, M.D., "Women in Psychiatry" column,
Psychiatric Times, March, 1995

". . . Reading through the pages of Achilles is a cathartic experience for those who had been in war, and a means of communicating one's experiences to others who were spared."

Lt. Colonel (Reserve) Arieh Y. Shalev, M.D., Israel Defense Forces,
Chairman, Department of Psychiatry,
Hebrew University Medical School, Jerusalem

"This interesting and erudite book provokes new thinking about the meanings and aftermath of combat. . . . By juxtaposing accounts from the Iliad . . . with graphic narratives provided by Vietnam Veterans he's treated, Shay enables us to experience the lives of ancient soldiers more realistically, and helps us see the experiences of Vietnam combat veterans in a more universal light. . . . Combat veterans treated with this author's empathic and far reaching vision are assured of compassionate and thoughtful assistance in their healing."

Joel Yager, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Chairman for Education, UCLA Medical School


"I have read Achilles in Vietnam carefully and with emotion. I am proud to be mentioned, because Achilles in Vietnam is a truly great achievement!"

Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and
Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University

"If it was a snake, it woulda bit us: 'Homer's Iliad . . . is about soldiers in war.' . . . The book is clearly written and a marvel of organization. . . . The great strength of Achilles in Vietnam is in its combat narratives, its vivid evidence of the realities of modern warfare and their striking similarities to, and equally striking differences from, antiquity. . . .

"[A]cessible not only to the general public but to the undergraduate student. . . . His aim is to discuss the persistence of combat trauma and the soldier's experience through thousands of years of warfare, and he does that superbly well. . . . Shay makes Homer accessible to the modern psyche by demonstrating that many seemingly foreign aspects of the Iliad's narrative are alive and well in any soldier's experience. He also provides a challenge to classical scholars to rethink their approach to Homer and his successors.

"Without appreciating the nature of war and it's impact on those involved in it, whether as soldiers or civilians, we cannot hope to understand Greek literature or culture. If we ignore Achilles in Vietnam and its implications for tragedy, comedy, and every other genre of literature, we run the risk of continuing to be baffled by the obvious."

Sallie R. Goetsch, Editor-in-Chief of Didaskalia: Ancient Theater Today,
Warwick, England Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 5.2

"If this poem achieved a universal currency in archaic and classical Hellas, it was because Homer could speak convincingly to an audience, most of whom had battlefield experience. In this sense Shay has retrieved some of the Iliad's power lost to the majority of us who have never faced the terror and ecstasy of combat. . . . After reading Shay's "Berserk" chapter, . . . scholars may be less inclined to attribute all of Achilles' maniacal slaughter to poetic exaggeration."

Stewart Flory, Res Militares, May, 1994

" . . . a groundbreaking piece of work with much of interest to say about the oldest masterpiece of western literature.

"Achilles in Vietnam is, to my mind, essential reading for any serious scholar of the Iliad, and for almost anyone concerned with the horrors of war. . . ."

David Pike, Scholia Reviews 4 (1995) No. 5


Achilles In Vietnam was REVIEWED IN:

The New York Times, New York Times Book Review, "New and Noteworthy Paperback Selection," New Yorker, Wall Street Journal [twice], Sunday Boston Globe, Sunday Washington Post, Sunday Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Francisco Examiner, Men's Journal, Dow Jones News Service, Utne Reader, Magill Literary Annual, Toledo Blade, Hungry Mind Review, a Choice "outstanding academic book" of 1994.

"An audacious, erudite, and above all profoundly humane book by an exceptional psychiatrist who illuminates the suffering of the Vietnam veterans he treats and the human experience of combat and grief in Homer's 3000-year-old poem the Iliad. He shows how war can ruin and persist and writes with love and respect for his patients whose full recovery is still uncertain. Achilles in Vietnam rattles the heart but bestows hope."

For review copies, speaking engagements, seminars, etc., please use the following:

Jonathan Shay, M.D.
11 Miller Street
Somerville, MA 02143

Phone: 617-661-4808.


Revised 6-26-97 by DGS

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