A collection of fractured-mirror reality stories for fans of Günter Grass, Gabriel García Márquez or Jorge Luis Borges.

THE CORPSE EXHIBITION

AND OTHER STORIES OF IRAQ

Blasim debuts with 14 surrealist stories about his beleaguered homeland, Iraq, and its people.

Expect nothing but the impressionistic here—magical realism, bloody allegories and macabre parables—elusive tales, each one a different window into modern Iraq’s tragic history. "An Army Newspaper" alludes to stories sent from the Iraq-Iran war front, a conflict costing a million dead, one generating a "flood of stories [that] did not cease" requiring a "special incinerator" to consume. "The Madman of Freedom Square" seems a parable about the U.S. invasion of Iraq, swirling around "two young men...their blond hair and their white complexions." In each piece, there’s no happy ending, but Blasim’s language is powerful, moving and deeply descriptive, thanks to Wright’s translation. Saddam Hussein may be referenced in "The Killers and the Compass," a story of evil Abu Hadid, a brute who seduces his brother into burying a deaf man alive. Expect no tale here that translates war and tragedy into reportorial-style fiction stories. One of Blasim’s less obscure tales is "The Reality and the Record." It chronicles the travails of a humble ambulance driver, kidnapped and forced to act in propaganda videos variously as an Afghan jihadist, a Sunni terrorist, a Shiite martyr, a Kurd, an infidel Christian, a Saudi terrorist, a Syrian Baathist intelligence agent and a Revolutionary Guard from Zoroastrian Iran. The most accessible story, and the most powerful fable about war and its consequences, is the last effort, "The Nightmares of Carlos Fuentes." A man escapes the abattoir of Baghdad and happily takes up Netherlands residence and then citizenship. He changes his name to Carlos Fuentes and quickly adapts to all that is Dutch, only to be plagued by nightmares. All the stories share a complexity and depth that will appeal to readers of literary fiction, while some focus more plainly on evil’s abyss, much like biblical parables.

A collection of fractured-mirror reality stories for fans of Günter Grass, Gabriel García Márquez or Jorge Luis Borges.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-143-12326-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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