Scott Anderson’s novel “Triage deals” with war and the reminiscence of war. Mark Walsh, the protagonist in Triage is a New York based photojournalist who specialises in war photography. During the nine years Mark is in the industry, he believes that “you have to keep it separate, keep it separate, and you don’t feel a thing.” Even though within the first nine years Mark believes that he is following his own advice and “keeping it separate”, in the novel there is much evidence of when he is unable to keep it separate and ultimately every war he goes to affects him.
Mark thinks that he is able to “keep it separate” but the novel demonstrates how Mark tries, but inevitably his subconscious is unable to “keep it separate”. Mark’s father is a former Marine who has also been scarred by war. He understands that war “affects you, it never stops affecting you.” At the time Mark believes that he is fine, he had looked his father in the eye and said “it doesn’t affect me.” While trying to “keep it separate”, Mark resorts to a range of protective behaviours. Joaquin refers to the camera as “a very convenient device for placing distance between oneself and one’s surroundings.” For Mark the camera acts as a shield between reality and him, he even admits “you kind of forget that what’s happening in front of you is real.” When Mark is in Harir Cave he is directly involved, “without your camera, it’s not so easy.”
Talzani is referring to the fact that when you are apart of the war, when you are not just standing behind the camera shooting, when you are not separated by the camera, it is very different, and hard to deal with. When Mark has parties and get-togethers with his fellow war photographers they never talk about their experiences at war, they only talk about how the photos turn out and technical things. In some ways, not talking about it is a way for Mark to “keep it separate.” Throughout the novel, Anderson often brings up the photographers drinking. When Elena asks David at the funeral to tell her the truth about Stewart’s death, all the photographers “nervously raised the bottles to their lips and drank.”No matter how hard Mark tries to “keep it separate”, ultimately he is unable to keep his life separate from his experiences of war. Most obviously this is proved after Colin’s death in Kurdistan.
Mark cannot consciously deal with the crisis, so his mind blanks out and he shows the classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After each photo shoot of a war ends, Mark goes to a “neutral place” for a few days until the “fear or tension or anger dissipated.” In needing to go to a neutral place, subconsciously Mark understands that he is unable to completely keep the war experiences separate from his life. “This time of all times he should have waited.” Mark realises that his need for minimalism serves as a means of regaining a connection with life outside the war zones; it acts as a form of personal debriefing.
This time he did not go to a neutral place and he can not keeping it separate anymore. The war story from Beirut of the little boy running towards Mark makes him feel guilt. He thinks that if he wasn’t so cowardly and ducked, or if he wasn’t there, the young boy would not have been killed. This shows that Mark is unable to keep it separate, he even admits, “wouldn’t it affect anyone?” Mark reveals “the pain only when he thought he was alone.” In the novel when Mark allows “a single sob to escape from his throat”, he is unable to keep it separate anymore.
In trying to “keep it separate”, Mark suffers many consequences. Colin’s death was too big a shock for Mark to deal with alone and so he turns back to how he always used to deal with war, Mark tries to keep it separate but ends up keeping everything separate, including his emotions and ultimately losing track of himself, resulting towards Mark never being able to be “the easy, confident man he had been.” After returning from Kurdistan Mark’s “heart has stayed with the dead”. Every time he sees himself in the mirror he pretends to introduce himself, “Hello, Mark Walsh”, as if he was a total stranger.
At one of the dinner parties, Mark did not know how to react to things so he copied others emotions “because he wasn’t having any of his own.” Even Mark himself thinks maybe “that he had vanished back there on the hilltop.” Ironically Mark tells Elena that “people don’t just vanish”, but Elena feels that Mark “seemed to be deteriorating right before her eyes.” Even Marks father believes that “Mark died a long time ago.” Mark has been keeping it separate for too long. He didn’t know how to tell anybody about his experiences because “one story, one pain bled into the next, and they spilled out until there was nothing left to hold.” So instead Mark keeps everything bottled up inside, it went on for so long that he had “eyes of the dead”.