Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi review – elegant satire


This post is by Alexander Larman from Books | The Guardian


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The winner of the international prize for Arabic fiction reimagines Mary Shelley’s classic in war-torn Iraq

“Be a positive force and you’ll survive,” a character repeatedly mutters in Ahmed Saadawi’s hallucinatory and hilarious novel. In war-torn Baghdad, where truck bombings are an unremarkable part of everyday life and where human life is a trinket to be tossed away, positive force is in short supply. It seems unsurprising in this present-day hell, then, that an opportunistic tinker and ne’er-do-well, Hadi, could seize upon myriad spare body parts covering the streets and create a patchwork human being. Saadawi suggests that, amid all the horror and spiritual degradation, there is nothing especially unlikely in the idea that this thing of shreds and patches should find reanimation from the soul of a security guard blown to shreds. Nor that the “whatsisname” should roam the streets, committing a series of murders.

Initially, the creature’s ...