I know just where Watzman is coming from because, as we learn in his autobiographical account, his story parallels mine. An American who moved to Israel around the same time as I did, we are about the same age. We did our army reserve duty in Israel about the same time although his jobs were considerably more interesting than mine. Just as I did, he kept a journal during his reserve service, and the result is this book. Company C is a collection of vignettes and anecdotes, largely autobiographical, collected by Watzman from his reserve duty between 1984 and 2002.
I really wanted to like this book but found it harder and harder to do so the deeper into it I got. First of all, Watzman is not a particularly good writer. His weak prose desperately needs an editor to separate out the good parts from the tedious ones. Many of the characters in the stories, for example, are not particularly interesting. The stories themselves vary with some boring and a few dramatic, such as the one about a helicopter mishap. Watzman tries to capture the flavor of army reserve daily routine, but he bumps up against the tedium of that routine. Too much of it reads like this: "We went to the kitchen, we got on the bus, we drank coffee, I had a giant abscess on my bottom." He tries to render in English the Hebrew-language army chitchat, but this often amounts to little more than inserting obscenities and Hebrew street slang.
Worse, Watzman insists on inserting his personal political opinions throughout the book. An Orthodox Jew well to the left of center, he reminds the reader of this combination at regular intervals. He should have either developed a serious political argument or (preferably) left the politics out altogether, for those political ideas lack interest, being no deeper than a bumper sticker: "Begin offered the Israeli Arabs like those in Tuba nothing at all." "A messianic, chauvinistic nationalism seemed to be gaining sway among the Israeli populace." "The best thing we can do, for them and for us, is pick up our gear and get out of those territories." "Was this a point of decision? Was banging on that [Arab] door an immoral act? … I knew that this was part of the collective punishment policy." Apparently, door banging ranks as oppression. Yawn.