Frankenstein in Baghdad
by Saadawi, Ahmed; Wright, Jonathan (TRN)






Hadi, an eccentric scavenger in U.S.-occupied Baghdad, collects human body parts and cobbles them together into a single corpse, but discovers his creation is missing just as a series of strange murders begins to plague the city. Original.





Ahmed Saadawi is an Iraqi novelist, poet, screenwriter, and documentary filmmaker. He is the first Iraqi to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction; he won in 2014 for Frankenstein in Baghdad, which also won France’s Grand Prize for Fantasy. In 2010 he was selected for Beirut39, as one of the 39 best Arab authors under the age of 39. He was born in 1973 in Baghdad, where he still lives.





*Starred Review* There is no shortage of wonderful, literate Frankenstein reimaginings-try Laurie Sheck's A Monster's Notes (2009) or Dave Zeltserman's Monster (2012)-but few so viscerally mine Shelley's story for its metaphoric riches: "Everywhere we're dying," writes Saadawi, "from the same fear of dying." Saadawi places readers in his hometown of U.S.-occupied Baghdad circa 2005, where Hadi has begun collecting body parts strewn from bombings. By stitching them together into the shape of a body, he wishes to honor and remember the dead. But the body vanishes. The monster is alive, imbued with a sort of soul by a grieving mother who believes it is her son returned from war. The monster begins killing, first as righteous revenge upon those responsible for murdering the people from whom he's stitched. But soon, he needs more body parts just to replace what is decomposing, and his morals fade into gray. Meanwhile, journalist Mahmoud al-Sawadi comes ever closer to this mass murderer known as Criminal X. In graceful, economical prose, Saadawi places us in a city of ghosts, where missing people return all the time, justice is fleeting, and even good intentions rot. "I am the first true Iraqi citizen," muses the monster, who is a "composite of victims" as much as he is his own extremist. A haunting and startling mix of horror, mystery, and tragedy. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.





A horrifying creature stalks the bombed-out streets of postwar Baghdad, seeking vengeance.This outrageously adroit horror metaphor deservedly won author Saadawi (Indeed He Dreams or Plays or Dies, 2008, etc.) the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction and now arrives on Western shores with a deft translation by Wright (The Longing of the Dervish, 2016, etc.). The book chronicles the unexpected exploits of Hadi, a rag-and-bone man barely tolerated in his war-torn neighborhood. We the readers are basically eavesdropping as Hadi tells his bizarre tale to local journalist Mahmoud al-Samedi. When Hadi's assistant, Nahem, dies in a car bombing, the junkman nobly goes to collect the body for burial only to find an assortment of body parts from a variety of people. "I made it complete so it wouldn't be treated as trash, so it would be respected like other dead people and given a proper burial," Hadi says in explaining the Frankenstein's monster-like creature he assembles. But th is being a horror tale, the spirit of a young man named Hasib Mohamed Jaafar takes root in the creature, which Hadi takes to calling "Whatsitsname." And Whatsitsname is mad, too, killing those responsible for the deaths embodied in its parts. As it replaces rotting body parts and continues its mission, it becomes stronger, deadlier, and more articulate. "With the help of God and of heaven, I will take revenge on all the criminals," it swears. "I will finally bring about justice on earth, and there will no longer be a need to wait in agony for justice to come, in heaven or after death." As a metaphor for the cycle of violence, it's quite nuanced, but Saadawi's black sense of humor and grotesque imagery keep the novel grounded in its genre. Call it "Gothic Arabesque," but this haunting novel brazenly confronts the violence visited upon this country by those who did not call it home. A startling way to teach an old lesson: an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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