On a recent Monday evening, a book club met to discuss the Greek play Agamemnon. It’s a tragedy, about a king coming home after a long, brutal war. When King Agamemnon first shows up in his home city, a group of wise, old men don’t know how to greet him. They ask, “How shall I hail you, how give honor?”
“When I read that, it kind of reminded me of when I came back from Afghanistan,” Anant Shukla told the group, over Zoom. “Not so much about like, how do I hail you? But how do I even approach you?”
Shukla lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire where he’s an emergency medicine resident at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He was late to the meeting, after coming home from the hospital.
He’s also an active-duty military physician and part of a virtual book club made up of several generations of veterans in the Upper Valley. They were reading a play written more than 2,000 years ago by the Greek author Aeschylus, who was a soldier himself. He fought in the Persian Wars, around the year 490 BCE.
Shukla says this awkwardness of coming home from war ― how people don’t really know what to say ― he felt it when he first saw his parents after getting back from Afghanistan in 2019.