Book Review: Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawai


Frankenstein In Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawai

frankenstein in baghdad

Published: January 23rd 2018 by Penguin Books


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.


This novel explores the horror, chaos, and mass death that has visited the residents of Baghdad in Iraq since the US occupation. Raw, horrific truths delivered with the blackest of humour via the reinterpretation of the Gothic Frankenstein. 

In trying times, the only constant is the rising tides of the dead and missing. Friends and family often are left unable to access a bodies, sometimes the odd pieces of body parts but there is no guarantee. We follow a wide cast of characters; the elderly Elishva whom grieves for her son, Daniel who was lost in the war, Hadi, a junk dealer suffering the loss of his business partner. With no body, Hadi collects various parts that represent the Iraqi community and stitches together a composite corpse.  His creation is entered by a displaced soul and comes to life. The Whatsitsname wants revenge for the deaths of the people whose body parts he is composed of, and goes on a killing spree through Baghdad. So Frankenstein, or Whatsitsname as he is referred to, is born.

Elishva claims him as Daniel, her son, returning as promised by St George. The neighbourhood think with so many missing and dead, some are bound to return like Daniel. A number of parties lay claim to and support Whatsitsname, seeing him as representing all who have suffered. Whatsitsname keeps losing body parts as he achieves vengeance. At first, those parts are replaced by innocent victims although soon any parts will do, even those of the guilty.

Saadawi has written an intelligent satire on the sorrow and grief that is Iraq, and Baghdad. The inclusion of magicians, djinns, astrologers help create a supernatural world existing within the real-world of Baghdad. To some, Whatsitsname is an urban legend and a personification of fear.  A modern day retelling of Frankenstein that even Mary Shelley would approve of. 

About Maison Moonchild

A Canadian gal that firmly believes words can change the world. An avid reader, writer and Halloween enthusiast. She has a special interest in communications and writes for pleasure and profession. She moonlights as a metaphysical maven with a knack for creating magical crystal jewelry and holiday accessories.
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