Mr. Blasim tells 14 of them in “The Corpse Exhibition,” his chilling new collection of war tales. The stories, which were translated into English by British journalist and translator Jonathan Wright, blend magical realism and black humor with brutal depictions of violence. They feature familiar war tropes—accounts of car bombs, assassinations, kidnappings and mutilations—but often deliver a subversive, supernatural twist. Many have the gloomy texture of dark fairy tales. The title story features an unnamed assassin who is tasked with displaying his victims’ bodies in creative, artistic poses. In “The Hole,” the narrator flees masked gun men and falls into a dark hole, where he meets an ancient jinni (or spirit). The protagonist of “An Army Newspaper” is a dead journalist, who tells the story of how he discovered a trove of beautifully written short stories by a dead soldier, and published them under his own name.
Mr. Blasim, a 40-year-old filmmaker, poet and writer who fled Iraqi Kurdistan on foot in 2000 and settled in Finland, is being published in the U.S. for the first time by Penguin. Literary critics in the U.K. have compared his writing to masters like Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Franz Kafka and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. A reviewer writing in the Guardian called Mr. Blasim “perhaps the best writer of Arabic fiction alive.”