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#FoylesFave: Frankenstein in Baghdad

9th March 2018 - Judy Barber

#FoylesFave: Frankenstein in Baghdad

Judy, our Middle Eastern Languages expert, shares her thoughts on the newly translated Frankenstein in Baghdad.


With its publication almost coinciding with the two-hundred-year anniversary of Mary Shelley’s original Frankenstein, this deeply strange and darkly funny novel is destined to become a classic of modern Arabic fiction. Set in the aftermath of the US invasion, it tells the story of a middle-aged, heavy-drinking junk dealer who, driven by grief for a friend killed by a car bomb, decides to build a complete human figure from the scattered body parts of people ripped apart by the explosions on the streets of Baghdad.


The hybrid creature lurches into life and embarks on its own grisly mission which is described in the manner of a good old-fashioned and genuinely shocking horror story. However, one of the most affecting aspects of the novel is the way the supernatural storyline gradually gives way to the everyday (and much more terrifying) horrors of life in Baghdad in 2005 where ‘the demons had broken out of their dungeons and come to the surface all at once’. Saadawi’s portrayal of a city dominated by opportunistic criminals and mini-dictators where death and abduction are routine realities is the perfect setting for this surreal and often hilarious tale of justice, revenge and survival.


Judy, Langauages Department, Charing Cross Road





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Frankenstein in Baghdad
Ahmed Saadawi; Jonathan Wright

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