Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi
Penguin Books (January 2018)
288 pages, $10.87 paperback; $11.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Ahmed Saadawi is an Iraqi novelist, poet, screenwriter and documentary film maker. He won the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction for Frankenstein in Baghdad, which was recently translated into English and published by Penguin.
Frankenstein in Baghdad is a Dickensian novel, focused on multiple characters. The titular character, also known as Whatsitsname, comes into being when Hadi, a junk dealer, collects the body parts of bombing victims throughout Baghdad and sews them together in order that there be a body to bury and perform holy rituals for. This piecemeal body gains consciousness and begins to take revenge on the people who are responsible for the death of its individual parts; however, once an individual part is avenged, it begins to disintegrate, requiring the body to constantly be updated with new parts. This starts a vicious cycle of finding parts quickly enough to replace the disappearing parts, and soon the bodies of terrorists and criminals are used, which causes a madness in the creature.