Following a desperate night-long battle, a group of beleaguered soldiers in an isolated base in Kandahar are faced with a lone woman demanding the return of her brother's body. Is she a spy, a black widow, a lunatic or what she claims to be: a grieving sister intent on burying her brother according to local rites? As she persists, single-minded in her mission, the camp's tense, claustrophobic atmosphere comes to a boil as the men argue about what to do next.
The Watch takes an age-old story - the myth of Antigone - and hurls it into present-day Afghanistan. The result is an unputdownable, deeply affecting book that brilliantly exposes the realities of war. It is also our most powerful expression to date of the nature and futility of this very contemporary conflict.
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the first great novel of the war in Afghanistan - Wall Street Journal
Sophocles's story of Antigone, who demands her brother's body back after it is decreed that the traitor's corpse be left to rot, is masterfully relocated and updated - The Guardian
This is a rich, unsettling, politically astute novel that will haunt you for a long time after you finish reading it - Sydney Morning Herald
this is fiction that forces us to react, to feel, perhaps even to change our minds - National Post, Canada
Classical ideas of human dignity and honour are juxtaposed with the squalor of modern war in this important novel... A beautiful and heartfelt lamentation - Irish Times
Grim and desolate ... written with a restrained power - The Times
His lyrical prose captures superbly the brutal realities of conflict - Sunday Times
Roy-Bhattacharya's scorching, tightly-wired new novel - Metro
We watch as the resistance of an isolated American garrison in Afghanistan is ground down, not by force of arms but by the will of a single unarmed woman, holding inflexibly to an idea of what is just and right - JM Coetzee
An important book for our times, in which one woman's determination and refusal to consent set an example of courage and honesty - Giles Foden
The Watch is a powerful tale, courageous both in concept and creation: an ancient tale made modern, passed through different narrators in extraordinary shape-shifting prose that makes this not just an important novel, but a remarkable read - Aminatta Forna
A poignant and important book about one of the defining events of the start of the 21st century; it is devastatingly eloquent and unequivocal about the fact that there is no glory or beauty in war - Fatima Bhutto
a tense, edgy, gripping, important work - Neel Mukherjee
Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya is my hero among my fellow writers. In a world in which an 'identity kit' is something like a toothbrush - that is, something one cannot do without - he has chosen the most difficult way. He has jettisoned his 'identity kit' in the name of freedom of literary choice, in the name of the freedom of literature -
Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya's lyrical and poignant evocation of war is a potent reminder of the murderous futility of our imperial adventures in the Middle East. He captures the raw brutality of industrial warfare, along with its trauma, senselessness, random death and stupidity. His characters, including the soldiers who prosecute the war and the innocents whose lives are maimed and destroyed by it, are consumed alike in the vast orgy of death that sweeps across war zones to extinguish all that is human - tenderness, compassion,understanding and finally love. He forces us to face the evil we do to others and to ourselves -
a taut and gritty story that unfolds amid the dust, shadows, and unease of one slice of the war in Afghanistan … Barbaric, heartfelt, heartbreaking, and lyrical, this is a primal and beautiful work. And a page-turner to the very last page - Amazon.com (Book of the Month)
With this book, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya has proved himself to be the modern Norman Mailer. The Watch is a stunning account of war, of the terrifying range of emotions, the despair and the sheer fatigue which men have to endure in combat. It is a must-read for anyone interested in our common humanity and the terrible things we do to each other. The Watch is quite simply superb - ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
A visceral imagining that’s scarily close to the truth … Roy-Bhattacharya’s multifaceted narrative allows empathy for those on either side of the garrison, and the harsh physical conditions of the occupied country are beautifully rendered, from the sandstorms that lacerate with a million pinpricks, to the colours of the desert - the Age, Australia
The strength of this book lies in its tight focus on an otherwise unimportant and undistinguished moment in a war some consider to be ill-conceived and pointless - Daily Telegraph, Australia
a powerful, modern take on the Afghanistan armed conflict resonates with the echoes of Joseph Heller, Tim O’Brien, and Robert Stone - Publishers Weekly (US)
This brave, visceral novel breaks new ground and does what previous versions of Antigone never have: It makes each character deeply humane, challenging the reader to sympathize with every one of them - NPR
Difficult to put down, powerful, eloquent, and even haunting - Booklist, USA
Already being likened by US critics to the works of Tim O'Brien and Robert Stone for its unique take on the modern Afghanistan war, it deploys the ancient Greek myth of Antigone to sheet home the horrors of this contemporary conflict … Roy-Bhattacharya breathes a 21st-century sensibility into this ancient tale by passing it through different narrators and he dazzles in his ability to inhabit the minds of his characters, particularly those of the soldiers. All in all, it's an extraordinary, shape-shifting telling that exacts a devastating emotional toll - The West Australian
quite literally haunts the soul and fires the outrage against a war which should never have begun. The Watch is a book which bewitches and makes one think beneath its spell. As such, I suspect it will be the one great piece of writing that will emerge from a moment of military history which will inevitably, gratefully, be lost in a sandstorm of infamy - International Herald Tribune, Paris
The Watch is a narrative of dislocation, loss, disintegration, a conflagration of hope and fear, nightmares and passions, paranoia and prescription pills, torn limbs and uncertain minds and all the different, insidious and scarred ways in which war marks people - Outlook India
a brilliant account of the experience of occupiers and occupied - Toronto Star
Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya was born in Jamshedpur, India, and studied politics and philosophy at Presidency College and the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught literature and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, Bard College, and the University at Albany. His novels The Gabriel Club and The Storyteller of Marrakesh have been published in eleven languages in sixteen countries.