The figure of the refugee in Hassan Blasim’s “The Reality and the Record”
Journal of Commonwealth Literature
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This article considers Hassan Blasim’s short story, “The Reality and the Record”. It argues that Blasim’s asylum seeker should be read as a powerful challenge to extant responses to the ever-growing global refugee crisis: a vision of the many difficulties faced by twenty-first-century displaced persons, no longer confined to the refugee camps of the mid-twentieth century most often associated with Palestinian literature in the Middle East, but seeking elusive shelter in Europe. I argue that Blasim’s short story highlights the impossibility of the demands placed upon those seeking shelter in the developed world, reminding us of the under-recognized role of trauma, narrative, agency, and especially evidence in seeking humanitarian asylum. By undermining any confidence we might have in an idealized “truth”, the text questions the morality of asylum-seeking processes in the developed world, demanding that its readers reevaluate their own stance in relation to displaced persons, and asserting that the burden of narrating oneself into a place of safety, of performing worthy victimhood, is neither just, nor feasible.