The Watch

by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya (Random House) R215 ISBN 9781781090039

This cleverly crafted novel is set in Afghanistan, but based on the play Antigone by Sophocles. The theme is about the conscience of the individual versus the conscience of the state. 

A legless woman arrives at an American military outpost to fetch the body of her deceased brother to bury him and deliver him the last rites. The soldiers stay in an isolated area and suffer from boredom and heat. They have killed men in a nightlong battle, but it is unclear if these men were local tribesmen at the wrong place in the wrong time or if they were dangerous terrorists. The pledge of this woman confuses the soldiers. Is she a spy? Is she a bait to draw out the soldiers? Or is she innocent? 

The story of this dilemma is narrated through eight viewpoints and it forced me to understand the actions and reasoning of each individual. The Watch is very well written. After so many American hero-books, it is good to read about the voiceless Afghan (women), the futility of war, the misunderstandings and lack of trust and poor communication amongst men. 

This is Roy-Bhattacharya’s third novel. His previous novels were translated into eleven languages. 

Pauline Vijverberg

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