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The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Hassan Blasim , Jonathan Wright

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5. Februar 2014
A blistering debut that does for the Iraqi perspective on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan what Phil Klay’s Redeployment does for the American perspective

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.

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Winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

“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

“Subtly and powerfully evocative . . . Superbly translated.” —The New York Review of Books

“A modern classic of post-war witness, elegy and revolt . . . Think Irvine Welsh in post-war and post-Saddam Baghdad, with the shades of Kafka and Burroughs also stalking these sad streets. . . . [Blasim] depict[s] a pitiless era with searing compassion, pitch-black humour and a sort of visionary yearning for a more fully human life. . . . Amid all the scars of combat, these stories seek and find comedy, magic, affection and even an urge towards transcendence.” —The Independent

“Line for line and paragraph for paragraph, Blasim writes more interestingly than [Phil] Klay. . . . His content is more strange and striking. . . . Blasim is an artist of the horrendously extraordinary. . . . [His] stories are almost Hemingwayesque in their stripped-down style and content. . . . Blasim has a sense of humor. He must have learned his jokes from the Grim Reaper.” —William T. Vollmann, Bookforum

“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

“Startling and brutal.” —Guernica

“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.” —
“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

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Hassan Blasim was born in Baghdad in 1973 and studied at the Baghdad Academy of Cinematic Arts. A critic of Saddam Hussein's regime, he was persecuted and in 1998 fled Baghdad to Iraqi Kurdistan, where he made films and taught filmmaking under the pseudonym Ouazad Osman. In 2004, a year into the war, he fled to Finland, where he now lives. A filmmaker, poet, and fiction writer, he has published in various magazines and anthologies and is a coeditor of the Arabic literary website His fiction has twice won the English PEN Writers in Tranlsation award and has been translated into Finnish, Polish, Spanish, and Italian. In 2012 a heavily edited version of his stories was finally published in Arabic and was immediately banned in Jordan.

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 3.9 von 5 Sternen  14 Rezensionen
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4.0 von 5 Sternen An Iraqi perspective of country lost. 8. Februar 2014
Von Sinohey - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition
A new crop of Iraqi authors was recently discovered by the West. Inaam Kachachi (Tashari), Ahmed Saadawi (Frankenstein in Baghdad) and Hassan Blasim are shaking up the literary world of the Middle East. They all write in Arabic and rely on translated versions to expose their work to the West.

“The Corpse Exhibition” by Hassan Blasim is a composite of his two previous publications (Al Maseeh Al Iraqi) The Iraqi Christ (2009) and (Mag noon Sahat al Horreya) The Madman of Freedom Square (2012), which I read a few months ago in the original Arabic. Both works have been translated by Jonathan Wright and were awarded literary prizes in the UK. The translation is spot on; Wright captures the ethos of the stories without losing nuance or subtlety of the original meaning.
The book is a compilation of 14 grim, brutal and often lurid, occasionally funny, stories of wartime Iraq, recounted in the first person from the Iraqi perspective. The story-tellers slip between reality and a phantasmagoric existence in a Kafkaesque world of Borgesian tales, where reason becomes madness and insane behavior is commonplace. The horror is wrapped in magical realism akin to the neo-gothic writings of the late Roberto Bolano (1953-2003) or Julio Cortazar(1914-84).

Blasim born in Baghdad in 1973, is a filmmaker, writer and poet who ran afoul of Saddam Hussein because of a controversial documentary “The Wounded Camera” and had to flee his homeland in 2000. After his peregrinations through several countries he is ultimately settled in Finland since 2004. He has a unique perspective of his people’s experience surviving the horrors of commonplace daily brutal violence by adopting a fatalistic outlook and a nihilistic attitude.

The book begins with the title story of a man recruited, by a non-political group, to be an assassin, with the stipulation that he exhibits the victims’ corpses in artistic fashion. The collection ends with “The Nightmares of Carlos Fuentes”, the doomed garbageman, Salim, who escapes to the Netherlands, changes his name to Carlos Fuentes and assimilates into the society, but is ultimately done in by his nightmares.

All the stories are fictitious; they are replete with assassinations, kidnappings, car explosions, beatings, mutilations and rapes of women and boys - yet the savagery is mitigated by mystical subversive occurrences or a supernatural phenomenon of a dark fairy tale. There are no happy endings.

"We have a saying that every Iraqi has five good scary stories," Mr. Blasim says. "So we have a lot of scary stories" and adds,”after several decades of dictatorship, economic sanctions and war, Iraqis have around 150 million horror stories to tell.”
Blasim borrows from these stories to fill the rest of the collection. “The Killers and the Compass” describes how Abu Hadid and his younger brother terrorize their neighborhood. The story of the “Hole” is about a man who falls into a dark hole, where he meets an ancient jinni (or spirit). A dead journalist narrates how he appropriated a dead soldier’s work in “An Army Newspaper”. Daniel, is “The Iraqi Christ” who gets premonitions from the itch in his crotch, and the two “blonds” who mysteriously appeared in the desolate Baghdad neighborhood of Darkness District are the subject of “The Madman of Freedom Square”. In “The Song of the Goats” one of the contestants, on a radio show about horrific stories, says,”If I told my story to a rock, it would break its heart.” The story of the ambulance driver who was kidnapped and serially sold by several rival political groups, as told in “The Reality and the Record” is one of the book’s best.

The narration is descriptive, raw, unnerving and vulgar. The writing is uneven and the stories seem to improve in complexity and sophistication as the collection progresses. The first story is brief and simplistic when compared to the intricate maturity of the last one. An undertone of bitterness permeates the collection, in spite of the surreal absurdist premise.

This book is not for everyone, but may be of interest to sociologists and historians for its perspective of the effect of years of brutal dictatorship, devastating war and its aftermath on civil society. It may also appeal to readers who appreciate the surrealistic magical realism of Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Junot Diaz, Günter Grass and Gabriel García Márquez.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen A Harrowing Collection Of Short Stories Arisen From The Darkness Of The Iraq War 24. April 2014
Von Nassem A. Al-Mehairi - Veröffentlicht auf
The Corpse Exhibition by Hassan Blasim is a collection of 14 short stories. Ranging from a man driven mad by being stuck in a deep hole to a man forced to become a suicide-bomber to save his mother, these stories are thought-provoking and haunting.

The first major literary piece from an Iraqi point-of-view on the War shows it to us like none other. In the style of cadence writing well-known to have been used by Omar Khayyam and others, we see the War that defines modern conflict- soldiers, suicide-bombers, terrorists, and refugees. The Corpse Exhibition also includes the fantasy that is real for some: angels, sorcerers, jinni, and prophets.

The Corpse Exhibition is emotionally difficult to read, but is extremely well-written. Horrific yet humorous, awful reality-filled yet fantasy, the stories followed me even after reading them. It is a very dark book, almost gallows humor, that portray the Iraq War as it was (and still is): confusing, haunting, and filled with madmen. It is not biased, and does not condemn the war, but simply presents the new reality in the region. I believe that this book is important, and written bravely, evidenced by it being immediately banned in Jordan upon release. These stories must be heard to be understood, and will have you thinking well after putting the book down.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen definitely worth reading 24. März 2014
Von Kathy Phillips - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Although a few of the stories seemed just clever, several were brilliant. One on the gap between "report" and "reality" lamented the need refugees feel to make an asylum application conform to certain "genre' requirements; at the same time, this story managed to sum up and satirize the whole war in Iraq, the follies and brutalities by all sides. As in Voltaire's satire Candide, what at first might seem "exaggeration" turns out to be the perfect way to convey an incredible truth. K. Phillips
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4.0 von 5 Sternen A surreal, haunting, and imaginative collection 11. März 2014
Von Ryan Sanford Smith - Veröffentlicht auf
I've been reflecting quite a lot on this short but destructive collection of short stories by the Iraqi writer Hassan Blasim, a writer The Guardian has called "perhaps the best writer of Arabic fiction alive". Taking it's title from the title of the first story, 'corpse exhibition' feels like both a directly and subtly apt one. There are bodies littered everywhere, violence and death a never-ending haze that hangs over every sentence. There's a stoic resolve present in the curation of these stories that reminds me of an art gallery, a sort of determination to let the art speak for itself without distraction -- the prose is concise, brutally economic as it frames one portrait after another of madmen, soldiers, djinn, prophets, soccer coaches and wailing family members. While Blasim's style lets these landscapes play out in a way unadorned, it's a style that also refuses to cushion any blow or cringe at any mutilated body.

I really admired the artistic ambition throughout the collection, the author's restraint to let the stories echo and haunt without any stilted prodding or winding up from the author's visible hand. The cascade of savagely honest descriptions and portrayals of one atrocity after another would have cultivated a good amount of writerly capital that could've been spent on a more sentimental or politicized text, but these stories really kick the gut because this gesture has been resisted. This doesn't mean the result is cold or lacking in criticism of nearly every actor in the long period of the US intervention, but Blasim has let the dark imagination of each story be its own best advocate. The result is a surprising, surreal, and necessary collection that will poltergeist around the mind of readers from any perspective.
5.0 von 5 Sternen Powerful 8. August 2014
Von James Kelly - Veröffentlicht auf
A powerful and poignant collection of short stories set in present-day Iraq. The book focused on the psychological and social damages of the wars that the country has seen over the last generation. However, the book is hopeful and optimistic, even in the midst of heartbreak and devastation, mixing the very real with the surreal. It is not a book for the faint of heart or faint of stomach, but it is gut-wrenching and important and beautifully written. Highly recommended.
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