Frankenstein in Baghdad is an Arabic novel written by the Iraqi writer Ahmed Saadawi. It won the IPAF award for 2014. The novel was translated into English by Jonathan Wright. The novel is a wartime spin on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.
Frankenstein in Baghdad is a must-read! I recently finished it this week and I must say I’m very impressed with this translation and even more so with the story, it’s magical realism mixed with Middle Eastern mysticism. The cast of characters blends together like the creature Frankenstein itself does, the way he’s sewn together from different parts. The idiosyncrasies of these characters coming together are symbolic of how the cultures meshed together in a post-war-torn Iraq.
Set in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2005, Ahmed Saadawi’s novel Frankenstein in Baghdad (2013) tells the story of a supernatural monster, the Whatsitsname, who commits a series of murders in a country already torn apart by terrorist attacks and sectarian violence (conflict between different religious groups). After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which caused the fall of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime, the country finds itself in a state of transition.
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During this period, three groups vie for territorial control and political power: the Iraqi government, allied with the U.S. military, and the opposing Sunni and Shiite militias. It is in this atmosphere of intense political tension that the Whatsitsname appears, questioning the possibility to achieve justice and peace in a violence-ridden country.
One day, Hadi Hassani Aidros, known as Hadi the junk dealer, tells the story of the creation of the Whatsitsname. Hadi is a man in his 50s known for constantly smelling of alcohol and telling cheerful, yet unreliable stories, which have earned him the nickname of “Hadi the liar.” He lives in a half-destroyed, one-room house known as the “Jewish ruin” in the neighborhood of Bataween, and repairs broken furniture for a living.