The last book I read was the Corpse Washer by Sinan Antoon, an Iraqi writer. The name of the book in the Arabic version is different from English. I read it in Arabic; I did not expect to read it at all. However, as my sister took my phone the other day. I had to look for it and this is when I cut the front cover of the book inside her handbag. I took it, and for the three next days, I took an enormous pleasure reading it.
The novel was written in standard Arabic language, but it was also traversed by the Iraqi dialect, which had added more life and intimacy to the dialogues in the text. As a contemporary novel, the themes tackled were of war, love, destiny, religion, death and life duality, and the pursuit of one’s dreams in all that partition and turmoil that swept across Iraq during the gulf war and then the American invasion of 2004.
I am not good in writing books review, but, it is a wonderful book and one of the few that I have enjoyed reading them.
The aforementioned themes are recurrent themes that were dealt with in the post-modernism and contemporary novels. However, what I had appreciated in the novel was the story of the main character Jawad, the protagonist who, though, hated his father’s job; he was predestined to take the family business against his will, against his ambitions, and against his beliefs. A young man, though, very passionate about art, colors, shapes, and painting, he had to face death in many ways. He was not only surrounded by death, but also was hunted in his dreams by dead bodies, which he had both to clean and to re-see them repeatedly in his nightmares.
“Corpse washing” is a Muslims ritual; they clean the dead body with pure water and other things before they bury them. The process takes no more than 15 minutes. Nevertheless, it is a complicated process and needs very careful attention, or so it is described in the novel.
The duo of life and death is an idea among many others elaborated throughout the novel. However, it appears in its best shape at the end, when Jawad sits to cherish the beauty and magnificence of death when it nourishes life. In his little working place Jawad’s father had a tree that he had always loved and took great care of. A pomegranate, that Jawad himself loved and took pleasure in describing its fruits. When Jawad used to wash the dead corpse with water and his father before him. That water was discharged and poured to irrigate the pomegranate placed in the garden. Jawad sits to wonder how is it possible for a tree to be in such prettiness, when all that it was fed, was water mixed with poisoned death coming from infinite dead bodies.
Jawad was always irritated by the idea that his father was providing for his family, though, from a decent job, death was all what they were feeding. As if his father’s money was blood money and deceased bodies is what make them survive or alive. This idea depicts when Jawed refused to work with his father when he wanted him to. Instead, he would prefer to take the job of painting houses that his fellow friend had offered.
At the end, I certainly recommend reading this novel because it can be both an enjoyment and a pensive reading. What I have mentioned about the novel is just a small piece of the pie. Because, there is more to discover of the life of Jawed who once dreamed of becoming a famous painter and tried his best to do so, but ended-up taking a job that, though, he refuses, it was his only way to provide for himself and his mother after the death of both his father and older brother.