What does the Corpse Want?

Sinan Antoon
Associate Professor
Gallatin School
New York University

The Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the sectarian civil war (2005-2007), dismembered Iraqi bodies and spaces, and produced multitudes of corpses. It is not surprising that, not unlike cemeteries and rivers, many of the visual and literary works produced by Iraqis after 2003 are crowded with corpses and ghosts. How do these corpses “behave” and function? What tasks do they fulfill, and for whom? This paper will address these questions in selected works.

Sinan Antoon (Baghdad, 1967) is a poet, novelist, scholar, and translator. He holds degrees from Baghdad, Georgetown, and Harvard, where he earned a doctorate in Arabic literature. He has published two collections of poetry and four novels. His works have been translated to twelve languages. His translation of his own novel, The Corpse Washer, won the 2014 Saif Ghobash Prize for Literary Translation and was longlisted for the International Prize for Foreign Fiction. The French translation won the 2017 Prix de la Litterature Arabe. Two of his novels were shortlisted for the Arabic Booker. His scholarly works include The Poetics of the Obscene: Ibn al-Hajjaj and Sukhf (Palgrave, 2014) and numerous essays on modern Arabic poetry. He has published op-eds in The GuardianThe New York Times, and al-Jazeera, as well as various Arab publications.. His fourth novel, The Book of Collateral Damage is forthcoming in English from Yale University Press in 2018. He is co-founder and co-editor of Jadaliyya. He is an associate professor at New York University.

Death Drives, or Thinking with the Corpse