*Man Booker International Prize finalist*
“Brave and ingenious.” —The New York Times
“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
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
If we can accept smart bombs and sniper attacks as part of our reality, why not ghosts and reanimated corpses? Iraqi novelist Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad reimagines the classic horror tale as a brilliant modern satire, setting the monster-and-creator story in Iraq during the American occupation. After one of his dearest friends is literally blown apart, a junk dealer stitches a body together out of corpses of other victims, but things get even darker when the spirit of a different bombing victim enters the corpse, bringing it to life and turning everyone’s world even more upside down. Even as this story becomes more fantastical, the unexpectedly relatable characters—like the woman who’s convinced the monster is her long-lost son and the journalist determined to figure out exactly what’s going on—keep things grounded and real. Saadawi’s wit shines light on both the Iraq war and the horror genre, leaving us pondering why the gruesome realities of war and occupation are somehow easier to bear with the addition of a restless, undead creature wandering the streets.
Saadawi's novel begins with an intriguing question: "Have you seen a naked corpse walking down the street?" So asks Hadi, a local junk collector in Baghdad during the American invasion and dreadful, subsequent war. At least at first, his neighbors appear unconcerned because "Hadi was a liar and everyone knew it." However, in the wake of suicide bombings and other brutal acts of violence, Hadi has been collecting body parts, just has he has always collected other bits of this and that. Saving the limbs and hunks of flesh, Hadi stitches a kind of body back together, claiming, "I made it complete so it wouldn't be treated like trash, so it would be respected like other dead people and given a proper burial." Unfortunately, "Whatsitsname," as Hadi comes to call his creation, becomes sentient, his spirit revived by an old woman who has been mourning her own son for 20 years, even since he was killed during the previous American war. And the monster becomes just that, a violent, terrifying murderer who, like the war itself, takes on a life its own, beyond logic, reason, or control. While the Frankenstein through line doesn't quite hold Saadawi's novel together, the book is successful as a portrait of a neighborhood, and a way of life, under siege. When a local real estate agent named Faraj is questioned by Americans on the morning after Whatsitsname commits a particularly grisly murder, he considers the troops who have come to occupy his country. "As suddenly as the wind could shift, they could throw you in a dark hole." This is a harrowing and affecting look at the day-to-day life of war-torn Iraq.