Betool Khedairi’s novel Ghāyib (Absent) centers on a young woman living and working in Baghdad during the 1990s and her interactions with the inhabitants of her apartment building. The novel depicts the transformations of bodies that occur in the war zone: transformations from a whole body to a partial body, from healthy to ill, from interconnected to isolated, and from wholesome to poisoned. This article argues that the systemic disabling and poisoning of women’s bodies in the novel violates the sanctity of the home and body and mirrors the destruction and poisoning of private and public spaces in Baghdad. Transformations brought about by shelling and sanctions are at the heart of the nature of war as that which renders bodies isolated, static, and toxic.

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