Frankenstein in Baghdad (book review) Ahmed Saadawi,

Jonathan Wright (Translator)


200823: dark, satiric, violent, postmodern. this vision of Baghdad in the early years of this 21st century is unlike the 50 other arabic-literature i have read, and certainly worthy winner of awards. blurb gives basic premise but key is how the story is told: focusing on identifiable, human, usual people trying to survive in world of daily car bombs, sectarian strife, threats of violence. it is possible to complain that the 'frankenstein' mythos exploited, in rather self-aware way, is too 'western' but yes there is some heritage to the concept of the 'golem' of jewish history, and so the collision of images is satisfying...


the writing, or translation, is not particularly vivid, but the range of characterisation from junkman to journalist, from devious businessman to delusional old woman, is suitably urban anywhere. the magical realism of the soul returning in search of his body, the state security apparatus that uses astrologers, contrasts well with the banal brutality of the 'investigations', but best of all is the growing 'conscience' of the 'monster'. this parallels the intellectual and moral growth of his namesake, seen also from the inside, and his sad awareness that his job killing really has no end, that there are none so innocent they have no criminal in them, and none so criminal they have no innocent in them...


and i read this in several sittings in one day, so easy to read...

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