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Frankenstein in Baghdad

A Novel
Written by: Ahmed Saadawi
Length: 8 hrs and 1 min
4 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 32.93
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Publisher's Summary

From the rubble-strewn streets of US-occupied Baghdad, Hadi - a scavenger and an oddball fixture at a local café - collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and to give them proper burial. But when the corpse goes missing, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, and reports stream in of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed.

Hadi soon realizes he's created a monster, one that needs human flesh to survive - first from the guilty, and then from anyone in its path. A prizewinning novel by "Baghdad's new literary star" (The New York Times), Frankenstein in Baghdad captures with white-knuckle horror and black humor the surreal reality of contemporary Iraq.

Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Winner of France's Grand Prize for Fantasy

©2018 Ahmed Saadawi (P)2018 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

"Gripping, darkly humorous...profound." (Phil Klay, bestselling author and National Book Award winner for Redeployment)
"Extraordinary...A devastating but essential read." (Kevin Powers, bestselling author and National Book Award finalist for The Yellow Birds)

What members say

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A Tragicomedy on War

I liked Frankenstein in Baghdad because it’s written by a Baghdad resident about Bagdad after the invasion of the US. Most books we read about the non English speaking world are written by English speaking authors. This book is written by an Iraqi in Arabic and so is an authentic view. The translation is very fluent.

I liked it because it has magic realism. Ghosts talk to each other. Corpses and paintings come alive and a whole lot of weird stuff happens. It paints a vivid picture of the chaos, carnage, horrors and absurdity of war, but it’s easily readable and digestible because it mixes in a healthy dose of humor.

I also liked it because it’s philosophical. But the author, Ahmed Saadawi doesn’t dictate his philosophy. His third person narrator is objective and detached. Violence although omnipresent is impartial and impersonal. His characters are realistically a mix of positive and negative traits. As one of the characters says, “There are no innocents who are completely innocent and criminals who are completely criminal.”

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning about new places and likes a good story.

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  • Kukhri
  • 2018-08-07

A distant cousin to Frankenstein

Do not read this with the expectation that it will closely resemble Shelly's Frankenstein, but you should expect a different, very Iraqi take on the idea. It deals with suicide bombings and average people put under unusually tough conditions. It's an interesting way of looking at the country from the people's perspective.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • QualityPet
  • 2018-08-13

Excellent Magical Realist View of Baghdad

This book is well deserving of the Man Booker nomination it received and did a great job of building the picture of a diverse community in Baghdad. The narration was also excellent

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Carol
  • 2018-04-09

Parts is parts

Elishva the old Christian woman longs for the return of her son Daniel. It has been twenty years since he was forcibly sent off to war but she believes he is still alive and she prays to St George so that he will return someday. Hadi the junk dealer collects and assembles body parts found in the debris of terrorist explosions and there are plenty of explosions in Baghdad. An arm from one body, a leg from another, stitching them together hoping to give them a proper burial as a whole body. One day Hadi leaves the putrid oozing body at his workshop, the Whatsitsname, to buy items for his junk shop. When he returns home, the Whatsitsname is gone. Panic ensues.

Hasib Jaafar was a hotel guard and at the age of 21 he was killed by a suicide bomber driving a garbage truck. There was little left of Hasib. His soul was searching for a body so he can be buried, when he finds the Whatsitsname lying on the ground, he magically enters it. Then the Whatsitsname with its new found soul is found by the old woman Elishva who claims him as her long lost son Daniel. She dresses him and cooks him food. But Daniel's return does not last long as he wanders the streets looking for revenge on the killers of his various body parts. When he finds and kills the murderer, that body part drops off. So he finds replacement murdered body parts and continues looking for murderers. The Watsitsname becomes a bit of a metaphor for a never ending war in Iraq. Murder and revenge. The police pursue him.

A dark satire and intriguing concept for about half of the book. Then Saadawi seems to lose his way and the book meanders in different directions with different characters, some who add nothing to the story. There are lots of astrologers, mistresses, barbers, journalist, priest, janitors and generals. All converging for one big explosion that seems very anti-climatic in the end.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-01-17

An excellent readaptation of Shelley’s Frankenstein. I am reading it again!

An excellent readaptation of Shelley’s Frankenstein. I am reading it again. Highly recommended book with so much symbolism and suspenseful plot line.

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  • Brady Dale
  • 2018-03-21

I will not be finishing this

Not hooked by the hook. It is not grabbing me at all. The Week gave a bad recommendation.

3 of 8 people found this review helpful