"If death is a postman"

June 24, 2013 § 3 Comments

I just started reading the English translation of Iraqi writer Sinan Antoon’s The Corpse Washer (which was published in the US this month) when I read this passage:

I can almost hear death saying:  “I am what I am and haven’t changed at all.  I am but a postman.”

If death is a postman, then I receive his letters every day.  I am the one who opens carefully the bloodied and torn envelopes.  I am the one who washes them, who removes the stamps of death and dries and perfumes them, mumbling what I don’t entirely believe in.  Then I wrap them carefully in white so they may reach their final reader – the grave.

But the letters are piling up, Father!  Tenfold more than what you used to see in the span of a week now pass before me in a day or two.  If you were alive, Father, would you say that that is fate and God’s will?  I wish you were here so I could leave Mother with you and escape without feeling guilty.  You were heavily armed with faith, and that made your heart a castle.  My heart, by contrast, is an abandoned house whose windows are shattered and doors unhinged.  Ghosts play inside it, and the winds wail. (p. 3)

This novel, set primarily in 2003 Iraq, promises to be haunting for me, if this passage is any indication.  Not too many Anglo-American fictions these days are as direct and as poetic simultaneously as this quote.  Hopefully I’ll find The Corpse Washer to be excellent; it certainly is off to a good start.


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