In Literature, Concealing and Revealing Torture

Arabic Literature (in English)

A few days ago, the New York Times ran an op-ed from a creative-writing instructor and confessed torturer:

cia“I was an interrogator at Abu Ghraib,” Eric Fair writes. “I tortured.”

But when Fair discusses his creative-writing class at Lehigh University — in conjunction with his experience as a torturer — he writes not about investigating Mahmoud Saeed’s “Lizard’s Colony” or perhaps scenes from Elias Khoury’s Yalo, but Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” He writes about showing his students a cigar box filled with stuff he bought at the Baghdad International Airport.

Fair seems focused on keeping the issue of torture at the forefront of the American imagination, which is good. But in effect, by reading his essay, we are asked to sympathize exclusively with the torturer. We know about Eric Fair, and about his black fleece coat, and about his son, who rides a bus to school.

We don’t know about any…

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