A new to me author in a unique setting, Ahmed Saadawi brings his novel that combines war-time life and an old classic to give a new twist to perceptions in
Frankenstein in Baghdad
I will admit that the premise of this book was what grabbed me: mostly because of the imagery brought forward by the synopsis and the intrigue of seeing the Iraq war from the perspective of an Iraqi, and seeing a narrative not usually available to the west. Saadawi has brought this story forward on two levels – the story of the survivors in a war-torn country that is still experiencing upheaval and the horror / fantasy of a created being brought forth to bring interest and attention to the fate of those who don’t survive the violence.
It was a bit of a slow progression for me with many breaks: the author brings that sense of hopelessness despite determination to do what is needed to survive, that undercurrent of tension and near-fatalism as people are faced with death and horrors each day with relentless repetition. No one is truly safe or protected from the devastation: personally, neighborhood and even families are stretched, threatened and endangered. Hadi has the idea of treating these ordinary people in a way that both honors their sacrifices and brings attention to the delayed if not forgotten rituals of burial and closure that have been pushed aside because of the upheavals. So, with these bits of people, scavenged from the aftermath of bombs to build an amalgam – a Frankenstein monster of sorts that will help to make a point to the authorities (however many are in ‘charge) of the city.
With this horrific creature created, it isn’t long before it is stolen and suddenly people are telling of a monster that can’t be killed, and the increase in deaths of the “bad people” seem to emanate from this creature. And then – things slide into an ‘anything goes’ where everyone is potential fodder for this monster – first hailed as a ‘good thing’ as it destroyed those who were bringing more sorrow and trouble to the city. Interestingly enough: Saadawi’s story becomes a sort of allegory for the cult of ‘leadership’ and the questions that should arise with each new forerunner – just what is one giving away to see one facet cleared?
Alternating between incisive, heartbreaking and occasionally shocking the story presents a narrative that brings the horrors (on two levels) of the feeling of a war zone, and the struggles to find hope and meaning in a situation so dire.
Title: Frankenstein in Baghdad
Author: Ahmed Saadawi
Genre: Literary Fiction / Speculative, Middle East
Published on: 23 January, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 8 Hours: 1 minute
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From the rubble-strewn streets of U.S.-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.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: