The Corpse Exhibition
The Corpse Exhibition
And Other Stories of Iraq
Penguin Books, Paperback, 9780143123262, 196pp.
Publication Date: February 5, 2014
The first major literary work about the Iraq War from an Iraqi perspective by an explosive new voice hailed as perhaps the best writer of Arabic fiction alive ("The Guardian") "The Corpse Exhibition"shows us the war as we have never seen it before. Here is a world not only of soldiers and assassins, hostages and car bombers, refugees and terrorists, but also of madmen and prophets, angels and djinni, sorcerers and spirits.
Blending shocking realism with flights of fantasy, "The Corpse Exhibition" offers us a pageant of horrors, as haunting as the photos of Abu Ghraib and as difficult to look away from, but shot through with a gallows humor that yields an unflinching comedy of the macabre. Gripping and hallucinatory, this is a new kind of storytelling forged in the crucible of war.
“Perhaps the greatest writer of Arabic fiction alive . . . [His stories are] crisp and shocking . . . cruel, funny and unsettling [with] hooks and twists that will lodge in any mind.” —The Guardian
“Arresting, auspicious . . . Well-plotted, blackly comic . . . Sharp, tragicomic moments . . . persist in memory. . . . Its opening story [features] a terrorist middle manager who wouldn’t be out of place in one of George Saunders’s workplace nightmares. . . . ‘The Song of the Goats’ [is] a cunning gem. . . . If a short story could break the heart of a rock, this might just be the one. . . . The collection’s last story is so complicatedly good [with] an ending worthy of Rod Serling. Mr. Blasim’s stories owe more than a little of their dream logic to [Carlos] Fuentes and Serling, with maybe some Julio Cortázar thrown in. . . . Their sequence imparts a mounting novelistic power.” —The New York Times
“Brilliant and disturbing . . . Bitter, furious and unforgettable, the stories seem to have been carved out of the country’s suppurating history like pieces of ragged flesh.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Superb . . . The existence of this book is reason for hope, proof of the power of storytelling.” —The Boston Globe
“Brilliant . . . [A] much-needed perspective on a war-ravaged country . . . It is a slim but potent collection and will go a long way to making Blasim’s name in American literary circles. . . . Blasim plants his flag squarely in the tradition of Kafka, Borges, and other writers of surreal and otherwise metaphysical fiction. . . . He has a vital subject and takes it seriously: Iraq and its people. . . . He has written a fresh and disturbing book, full of sadness and humor, alive with intelligent contradiction.” —The Daily Beast
“A bravura collection . . . Mind-bendingly bizarre . . . Blasim . . . lights his charnel house with guttering flares of wit. . . . [Be] ready to be shocked and awed by these pitch-black fairytales.” —The National
“Unforgettable . . . Very important . . . [Blasim’s stories] could only come out of firsthand experience of the war.” —Flavorwire, 10 Must-Read Books for February
“A vivid, sometimes lurid picture of wartime Iraq [by] one of the most important Arabic-language storytellers . . . Violent, bleak and occasionally beautiful . . . Dark and sometimes bitterly funny . . . Most of these stories feel ready to collapse or explode at any moment. . . . The reader walks on solid ground one moment, and the next the ground gives way—sending him tumbling into deep, otherworldly holes.” —Chicago Tribune
“A blunt and gruesome look at the Iraq War from the perspective of Iraqi citizens . . . Blasim’s stories give shape to an absurdist world in which brutal violence is commonplace. . . . [For] fans of Roberto Bolaño, Junot Díaz, and other writers who employ magical realism when describing grim realities.” —The Huffington Post
“Shocking, urgent, vital literature. I will be surprised if another work of fiction this Important, with a capital I, gets published all year. If you’re human, and you are even remotely aware that a war was recently fought in Iraq, you ought to read The Corpse Exhibition.” —Brian Hurley, Fiction Advocate
“Corruscating, lapidary, deeply unsettling, Hassan Blasim’s stories are not only without equal, they are a necessary reminder that there is an other side waiting to give voice to the tragic costs of these unnecessary, imposed wars.” —Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, author of The Watch and The Storyteller of Marrakesh
“Blasim pitches everyday horror into something almost gothic. . . . [His] taste for the surreal can be Gogol-like.” —The Independent
“Stunningly powerful . . . Brutal, vulgar, imaginative, and unerringly captivating . . . Every story ends with a shock, and none of them falter. A searing, original portrait of Iraq and the universal fallout of war.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The first story alone blew me away. Don’t miss.” —Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
“Powerful, moving and deeply descriptive . . . All the stories share a complexity and depth that will appeal to readers of literary fiction [and] fans of Günter Grass, Gabriel García Márquez or Jorge Luis Borges.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Excellent . . . Like hollow shards of laughter echoing in the dark . . . Blasim moves adeptly between surreal, internalised states of mind and ironic commentary on Islamic extremism and the American invasion. . . . Extraordinary.” —Metro
“Iraq's story must still be told, and we need Iraqi voices like Blasim's to tell it.” —More Intelligent Life
“Clever and memorable . . . Agreeably creepy . . . Move[s] effectively between surreal and magical. . . . Blasim’s use of the real-life horrors of Iraq [and] the fanciful spins he puts on events make the horrors bearable—even as these also often become more chilling.” —The Complete Review
“The first major literary work about the Iraq War as told from an Iraqi perspective . . . Starkly visual . . . Luridly macabre . . . Eloquent, moving . . . Effortlessly powerful and affecting . . . More surreally gruesome than the goriest of horror stories . . . Hassan Blasim is very much a writer in [the] Dickensian mould. . . . These are tales that demand to be told.” —CityLife.co.uk
“Savagely comic . . . A corrosive mixture of broken lyricism, bitter irony and hyper-realism . . . I can’t recommend highly enough ‘The Corpse Exhibition,’ ‘The Market of Stories’ or ‘The Nightmares of Carlos Fuentes.’ ” —The M John Harrison blog
“[Blasim is] a master of metaphor who is now developing his own dark philosophy [in] stories of profane lyricism, skewed symbolism and macabre romanticism. . . . [His work is] Bolaño-esque in its visceral exuberance, and also Borgesian in its gnomic complexity.” —The Guardian
Four former Blackwater guards were found guilty last week in connection with a fatal shooting in 2007. Author Brian Castner recommends a book on the toll violence has taken on Iraq. More at NPR.org
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