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Through the Literary Looking-Glass
About Marc Levy's works

Focus on The Best of Medic in the Green Time

Renée Dickason
Référence(s) :

Marc Levy, The Best of Medic in the Green Time (Writings from the Vietnam War and its Aftermath), Salem, MA, USA, Winter Street Press, 2020, 565 pages.

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Like Apocalypse Now – you got smoke; you got rockets; you got mini-guns. It was wild.
I’m patching him up. He’s writhing in pain. I don’t know where it comes from, but this is the good part of the story. From somewhere – bear in mind I’m Jewish – I say, “John, you believe in Jesus?” And he’s screaming and I say, “We’re gonna pray, John. We’re gonna pray to fucking Jesus.” John says, “Jesus Christ, Doc. Gimme a fucking cigarette!” His hands are shaking. His legs are mangled. […]

[Marc Levy, “John-Jean-Jeff”, p. 14].

1Commemorations, official memorial constructions in various public spaces and events (museums, exhibitions, etc.) offer visions of wars. Some try to do justice or to contribute to the rehabilitation of dark episodes of the past. Others try to represent what soldiers’ lives, in a context of conflicts and wars, were like. Whatever the prism envisaged, each war has its narratives, public and private, collective and individual. Each has its load of abjection, of human baseness, of atrocities and of tragedies.

2In the global war / conflict memorial puzzle, artefacts contribute to projecting realities, mostly subjective ones, as questions of point of view and hindsight play significant roles.

3Displays of uniforms and pictures of places (with ruins, bloodied bodies, mass graves, etc.) help towards the visualization of aspects of what happened, and the perception of the visible representations of PHYSICAL DESTRUCTION. Reading letters, cards, gazettes and diaries written in, or sent from, the theatre of operations also helps us to have a more intimate perception of the insanity of war situations and helps us to apprehend the sufferings of those at the front.

4The apprehension of a war cannot be but an understanding by proxy of a war, that, though, in the case of Vietnam, it officially finished some five decades ago, is still part and parcel of the experience of survivors, those who lived through the war, directly, those who suffered in their bodies and souls.

5There is no art of managing the “horrible leftovers” of a war, be it clinical or muddy, of high or of low intensity. Everyone is marked with ingrained experience and trauma.

6In the perennial vicious circle of an after-war, those, who lived through it, are “forgotten”, for the benefit of statistics, catchy media headlines and biased mediatisation, glorifying Victory for the “winners”, depreciating Defeat for the “losers”.

7Beyond the war of words, the anthropologist or the historian focusing on immediate, living and present history should scrutinize other archival testimonies, amongst them blogs and web diaries along with direct exchanges with “Veterans”.

8Marc Levy’s The Best of Medic in the Green Time (Writings from the Vietnam War and its Aftermath) offers a vivid recollection of life for American War Veterans. The contributions of Marc Levy and his fellow Vets cannot leave us indifferent as they go beyond the “traditional” tribute by / to those who “served their country”. They describe their shared experiences, their inner feelings, their observations on the lack of concern they encountered once they were plunged into uncaring and profoundly dehumanizing and even senseless situations. The absurd starts at home and deepens as soon as arriving in the conflict zone.

9Amongst the various painful and delicate reminiscences of the war, a few recurrences are highlighted which trigger active and denunciating thoughts resonating with Americans but also with citizens of the world. Criticisms and denunciations are plentiful: dehumanization, degradation, destruction (physical and psychological), trauma, to mention just a few…

10Sadly enough, DEHUMANIZATION starts before leaving the US and lingers once back home. CONTRADICTIONS of the gigantic and complex military machine are pointed out. Marc Levy also expresses his “naivety” when arriving in the “emerald” scenery of Vietnam and Cambodia. Hell was to become his daily lot, human bait, always on the lookout.

11Exceptional circumstances made ordinary by their repetition lead to DEGRADATION of oneself and potentially of Others. In the testimonies gathered in Marc Levy’s compilation, one wonders how people could live with these realities, happily ever after.

12PSYCHOLOGICAL DESTRUCTION develops little by little. The “villains” are part of an institutionalized WAR MACHINE, where humans are soul-less, reduced to numbers.

13When the Absurd is part of a daily routine… the human dimension vanishes, dignity and moral values evaporate. “As the enemy’s body is dismantled, so is the soldier’s soul” [see Preface, p. xvi].

14Sufferings can be diminished, but as for trauma, it cannot be totally erased, you have to cohabit with it. It is an imprint in your body, your mind and your soul. It is engraved in your individual / collective memory. RESILIENCE contributes to the development of a new self in search of INNER PEACE and to the discovery of a fresh and more insightful take on life as a whole. This necessarily empathetic process needs time. Another kind of courage and inner strength has to be mobilized to redefine, with serene and comforting benevolence, your own SELF. A notion that has to be expanded to a global, collective SELF, with a universal conscience and awareness. Thus, Marc Levy’s book is part of a profoundly human and civic mission. Marc Levy is right to continue to tell those who did not experience such situations what really happened in order for WARS to STOP.

15A RESPONSIBLE THOUGHT for citizens and world leaders about how NOT to renew the horrible, the condemnable, the reprehensible is THE STRONG MESSAGE of universal PEACE conveyed in this inspirational book that I strongly recommend reading.

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Référence électronique

Renée Dickason, « Focus on The Best of Medic in the Green Time  »Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], Anthologie vivante sur les Mémoires de guerre, mis en ligne le 09 septembre 2020, consulté le 13 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Renée Dickason

Professor of Cultural and Media History, Rennes University, France

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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