“What Did the Corpse Want?” Torture in Poetry

Sinan Antoon

in Speaking about Torture

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780823242245
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780823242283 | DOI:
“What Did the Corpse Want?” Torture in Poetry

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This chapter provides the first English translations and analyses of poems written by the only two Iraqi writers to publish poems about Abu Ghraib, Saadi Youssef (“The Wretched of the Heavens”) and Sargon Bulus (“The Corpse”). It discusses the textual strategies that they employ to speak on behalf of victims of torture without appropriating their suffering or memory for a particular political agenda. It argues that “The Wretched of the Heavens” employs both Qur’anic and Biblical motifs in an effort to blur cultural identities and religious traditions in line with Youssef’s adherence to a communist vision that reclaims the agency of the tortured prisoners. Bulus’s “The Corpse” describes acts of torture but not the pain resulting from them by writing from the perspective of a corpse whose only means of communication is gesture or undecipherable signs. The fixity of its gaze is directed at us as well as its torturers.

Keywords: Body in pain; Saadi Youssef; Sargon Bulus; Abu Ghraib; Communist intellectual; Iraq; Appropriation

Chapter.  3487 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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