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ChatChat - Claudia Cragg

Jul 21, 2010

20 April 2011 UPDATE: 

Tragically, leading British photojournalist Tim Hetherington (see story below) has been killed while covering the fighting in the Libyan city of Misurata, the UK Foreign Office has confirmed. His vitally important work will be greatly missed. 

Sebastian Junger is an author and war correspondent whose 1995 novel 'Perfect Storm' was made into a movie and prompted comparisons of his work to that of Ernest Hemingway.

Having been hailed as a great new literary voice, Junger then seemed to transition to war correspondent and that may be, as he discusses here, after an encounter between his achilles tendon and a chainsaw up a tree. He was working in earlier days as a high flying arborist.

Shortly after that incident when he came face to face with the ghastly grizzle of his exposed foot, Junger found himself in the middle of the Balkans covering the atrocities. Some say that Junger has since further metamorphosized both his work and persona, appearing recently as part of a national book tour on various 'Sunday talkies' with US Army Generals and war pundits. Here though Junger explains to Claudia Cragg what he considers to be the motivations for his work.

Junger's latest book 'War' is based on visits he made to eastern Afghanistan from June 2007 to June 2008. These despatches on assignment for Vanity Fair have also resulted in the film Restrepo (2010). Made with Brit. Tim Hetherington this documentary was produced from the time the two worked together in Afghanistan spending a year with one platoon in the Korangal Valley, billed as the deadliest valley in Afghanistan. The title of the film refers to the outpost where Junger was 'embedded', which was named after a combat medic, Pfc. Juan Restrepo, killed in action. To Junger, "It’s a completely apolitical film. We wanted to give viewers the experience of being in combat with soldiers, and so our cameras never leave their side. There are no interviews with generals; there is no moral or political analysis. It is a purely experiential film. 

Restrepo, which premiered on the opening night of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, won the grand jury prize for a domestic documentary.Junger self-financed the film, but then toward the end got National Geographic to fund the rest of the film.

(You may have noticed that recent interviews have been with predominantly male subjects. This reflects, not the interviewer's preference, but sadly the dirth of female subjects. Should you wish to hear an interview with a specific author or personality, please do email your suggestions to