Here’s the first sentence in the Iraqi writer Hassan Blasim’s THE CORPSE EXHIBITION and Other Stories of Iraq: “Before taking out his knife he said, “After studying the client’s file, you must submit a brief note on how you propose to kill your first client and how you will display his body in the city.”
That sentence, and the story and book seem to exemplify what another internationally-acclaimed Iraqi writer Najem Wali calls characteristic of contemporary writing from Iraq: “a ‘brutally raw realism‘ characterized by a shocking sense of modernity.”
When Blasim commissioned 8 other Iraqi writers to contribute short stories to a recently-published collection called IRAQ + 100: Stories from a Country after the Invasion, he clearly wanted to nudge his colleagues in a different direction. Not realism, but science-fiction, or at least futurist fiction, set in an Iraqi city in 2003, 100 years after America and its allies invaded Iraq to overthrow the government of Saddam Houssein.
His own contribution, “The Gardens of Babylon” begins playfully: “One of the Tiger-Droids has been tampered with. … Babylon is now a paradise,” he continues, “for technology developers, a playground for hackers, virus architects and software artists.” But before the end of his story, Blasim calls Babylon “a damned city,” and in several of the other stories, Iraqi cities like Basra, Najaf, Kut, Sulaymania and, of course, Baghdad seem much closer, in the imagined year 2103 to damnation than playgrounds.
Anoud al-Anoud is an Iraqi writer living in the United States.
IRAQ + 100: Stories from a country after the invasion. Comma Press: London 2016
Edited by Hassan Blasim
9 stories by 9 writers, all but 2 translated from the Arabic.
Only one lists himself as still living in Iraq. Others report they live in London (2) Brussels, Madrid, Finland and the United States (2). 2 give no present location.
THE CORPSE EXHIBITION and Other Stories of Iraq by Hassan Blasim,. Penguin Books: London, 2014.