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Peace

 

 

Three hapless American soldiers, sent out on reconnaissance at the end of World War II, end up, more by mistake than design, scaling a mountain in a snowstorm. It is the brutal Italian winter of 1944. While the soldiers struggle to keep their bearings, the atrocities surrounding them — on both sides of the conflict — are too corrosive for such a sensitive instrument as a moral compass. Soon the three are lost — and not just physically.

Richard Bausch’s Peace is a spare, beautiful, breathlessly told drama. To read the novel is to enter a cold winter nightscape in which, contrary to the title, no peace may be found. The book concerns itself less with the big concepts of World War II — Allied, Axis, Nazism, Fascism — than with the minute physical depravation of men hunting one another across an icy landscape. Bausch’s mountain is partly mythic. A freezing rain continuously falls. Deer loom out of the dark like avatars from another, saner world. The ancient Italian farmer who guides the Americans may in fact be trying to kill them. A pivotal moment occurs near the short novel’s end, when one of the soldiers, Robert Marson, shows a singular act of private mercy amid the flood of public violence. Ordered to assassinate their Italian guide, who is revealed at last for a Fascist (and probably a spy), Marson disobeys his superior. He takes the old man into the woods, and sets him free.

“’Do your duty,’ his father had said.” writes Bausch, “And he could not find in his heart what the word meant anymore.” Marson, in the end, does not do his duty. He does the right thing. In the depth of his conscious, he finally finds a compass reading. The true north of compassion; it might just lead to a moment’s peace.

—Brad Kessler, 2009 finalist judge
2007 Fiction winner for Birds in Fall

Richard Bausch's Ten Commandments
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Richard Bausch's Ten Commandments
Award-winning novelist Richard Bausch spoke to Operation Homecoming workshop participants at Fort Drum, New York, offering his "Ten Commandments" for developing good writing.
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2009 Fiction Winner

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(Click photo to see acceptance speech at awards dinner.)

Richard Bausch
Peace

Richard Bausch is the author of eleven novels. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Playboy, GQ, Harper's Magazine, and other publications and has been featured in numerous best-of collections, including The O. Henry Awards' Best American Short Stories, and New Stories from the South.

He is chancellor of the Fellowship of Southern Writers and lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where he is Moss Chair of Excellence in the Writer's Workshop of the University of Memphis.

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“I am excited to have the prize--especially when I see the books that were nominated along with mine. It is heartening to be judged worthy of that company, and to be singled out among them is deeply humbling.”

—Richard Bausch                        


 
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