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Disintegration and Hope for Revival in the Land of the Two Rivers as Reflected in the Novels of Sinan Antoon

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This article deals with three metafictional novels by the Iraqi-American writer Sinan Antoon: Iʿǧām (An Iraqi Rhapsody, 2004), Yā Maryam (Hail Mary, 2012), and Waḥdahā šaǧarat al-rummān (The Pomegranate Alone, 2010), author-translated into English as The Corpse Washer (2013). The novels are set in Iraq during Ṣaddām Ḥusayn’s dictatorship and in the aftermath of America’s invasion. Antoon juxtaposes the terror of Iraqi life against characters seeking to survive through their mind-bending determination to see beauty in their fragmented world. To achieve his paradox, Antoon transports readers of his narrative’s here-and-now into transcendent unrealities by using magical realism. A kind of three-dimensional dialectic operates between the natural and supernatural, and rationality and irrationality in which characters’ find in their dreams respite by suspending accepted definitions of time, place, and identity. Writing in Arabic, Antoon highlights two conflicting functions of language and letters as vehicles of destruction and creativity.Antoon’s three novels, each from its own perspective, reflect his belief that although Iraq is presently in a state of disintegration, the Iraqi people are resolute in their willingness to overcome hardship and to resurrect their nation in their lifetime.

Affiliations: 1: Bar-Ilan University


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