10/18 – The Corpse Washer, by Sinan Antoon

Translated from the Arabic by the author

Tuesday, October 2,  2018 – discussion lead:  Ruth
From goodreads (click on ths link for discussion of the book): Young Jawad, born to a 91njw1nrxqltraditional Shi’ite family of corpse washers and shrouders in Baghdad, decides to abandon the family tradition, choosing instead to become a sculptor, to celebrate life rather than tend to death. He enters Baghdad’s Academy of Fine Arts in the late 1980s, in defiance of his father’s wishes and determined to forge his own path. But the circumstances of history dictate otherwise. Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and the economic sanctions of the 1990s destroy the socioeconomic fabric of society. The 2003 invasion and military occupation unleash sectarian violence. Corpses pile up, and Jawad returns to the inevitable washing and shrouding. Trained as an artist to shape materials to represent life aesthetically, he now must contemplate how death shapes daily life and the bodies of Baghdad’s inhabitants.

Through the struggles of a single desperate family, Sinan Antoon’s novel shows us the heart of Iraq’s complex and violent recent history. Descending into the underworld where the borders between life and death are blurred and where there is no refuge from unending nightmares, Antoon limns a world of great sorrows, a world where the winds wail.

NPR interview – In Civilian Snapshot Of Iraq, An Artist Is A ‘Corpse Washer’: […] The problem is that in this country, and in “the West” in general … we get the American narrative, and in this country we get the narrative of the vets, which is important of course, but we never, or very rarely get the … civilian point of view. We live in such a militarized society now that valorizes the violence carried out by armies; we never see the world from the point of view of the civilians who are on the receiving end of tanks and drones and whatnot. […]

About the author:

Read about the author on his website:  Sinan Antoon is a poet, novelist, translator, and scholar. He was born and raised in Baghdad where he finished a B.A in English at Baghdad University in 1990. He left to the United States after the 1991 Gulf War. He was educated at Georgetown and Harvard where he obtained a doctorate in Arabic Literature in 2006. […]

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