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Frankenstein in Baghdad
Cover of Frankenstein in Baghdad
Frankenstein in Baghdad
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
*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.
*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.
Available formats-
  • OverDrive Listen
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Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
    1040
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:
    6 - 8


 
Awards-
Excerpts-
  • From the cover Chapter One

    The Madwoman

    1

    The explosion took place two minutes after Elishva, the old woman known as Umm Daniel, or Daniel's mother, boarded the bus. Everyone on the bus turned around to see what had happened. They watched in shock as a ball of smoke rose, dark and black, beyond the crowds, from the car park near Tayaran Square in the center of Baghdad. Young people raced to the scene of the explosion, and cars collided into each other or into the median. The drivers were frightened and confused: they were assaulted by the sound of car horns and of people screaming and shouting.

    Elishva's neighbors in Lane 7 said later that she had left the Bataween district to pray in the Church of Saint Odisho, near the University of Technology, as she did every Sunday, and that's why the explosion happened-many of the locals believed that, with her spiritual powers, Elishva prevented bad things from happening when she was among them.

    Sitting on the bus, minding her own business, as if she were deaf or not even there, Elishva didn't hear the massive explosion about two hundred yards behind her. Her frail body was curled up by the window, and she looked out without seeing anything, thinking about the bitter taste in her mouth and the sense of gloom that she had been unable to shake off for the past few days.

    The bitter taste might disappear after she took Holy Communion. Hearing the voices of her daughters and their children on the phone, she would have a little respite from her melancholy, and the light would shine again in her cloudy eyes. Father Josiah would usually wait for his cell phone to ring and then tell Elishva that Matilda was on the line, or if Matilda didn't call on time, Elishva might wait another hour and then ask the priest to call Matilda. This had been repeated every Sunday for at least two years. Before that, Elishva's daughters had called irregularly on the land line at church. But then when the Americans invaded Baghdad, their missiles destroyed the telephone exchange, and the phones were cut off for many months. Death stalked the city like the plague, and Elishva's daughters felt the need to check every week that the old woman was okay. At first, after a few difficult months, they spoke on the Thuraya satellite phone that a Japanese charity had given to the young Assyrian priest at the church. When the wireless networks were introduced, Father Josiah bought a cell phone, and Elishva spoke to her daughters on that. Members of the congregation would stand in line after Mass to hear the voices of their sons and daughters dispersed around the world. Often people from the surrounding Karaj al-Amana neighborhood—Christians of other denominations and Muslims too—would come to the church to make free calls to their relatives abroad. As cell phones spread, the demand for Father Josiah's phone declined, but Elishva was content to maintain the ritual of her Sunday phone call from church.

    With her veined and wrinkled hand, Elishva would put the Nokia phone to her ear. Upon hearing her daughters' voices, the darkness would lift and she would feel at peace. If she had gone straight back to Tayaran Square, she would have found that everything was calm, just as she had left it in the morning. The sidewalks would be clean and the cars that had caught fire would have been towed away. The dead would have been taken to the forensics department and the injured to the Kindi...
About the Author-
  • Ahmed Saadawi is an Iraqi novelist, poet, screenwriter, and documentary filmmaker. He is the first Iraqi to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction; he won in 2014 for Frankenstein in Baghdad, which also won France’s Grand Prize for Fantasy. In 2010 he was selected for Beirut39, as one of the 39 best Arab authors under the age of 39. He was born in 1973 in Baghdad, where he still lives.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 9, 2017
    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.

  • AudioFile Magazine For this novel structured as linked short stories, two narrators work together to dramatize the horrors of postwar Iraq. Kaleo Griffith takes the first half, establishing a city torn by war that also teems with expats who intend to remake it, bigger and better. The second half of the story has a science fiction bent. Edoardo Ballerini portrays a man who scavenges body parts from the dead decaying in the streets to recreate Mary Shelley's infamous monster. This may be when some listeners hit "pause." But Ballerini's smooth delivery and fluid narration ensure that most will want to find out what happens next. His raspy voice conjures the painful dilemmas facing modern Iraqis, male and female alike. M.R. � AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine
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Bahrain, Egypt, Hong Kong, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen

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Frankenstein in Baghdad
A Novel
Ahmed Saadawi
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