Set in US-occupied, war torn Baghdad, bombings are a daily event, and bodies are commonplace. This is the setting for a Frankenstein inspired take on life in Baghdad. I really enjoyed reading Frankenstein in Baghdad, and would encourage you to read it too! It’s not a retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, it’s about life in US occupied Baghdad for the ordinary citizens.
Hadi, a junk collector pieces together a full body from pieces of bodies he has found in the street. This corpse gets reanimated by the soul of a car park attendant, killed in a car bomb attack.
The monster wants to get revenge on all the people who wronged the people he is made up from. He spends a lot of time exacting revenge and contemplating his motivations and methods.
But the monster isn’t really the main thing that goes on in Frankenstein in Baghdad. The real story, is about a community that tries to go about it’s day to day business, in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.
We meet various people in the neighbourhood. We learn who their local friends and enemies are. We learn about their histories, their triumphs and their tragedies. We find out about family members and friends who have already abandoned Baghdad, and wrestle themselves with if and when to take refuge somewhere else. I’m not going to delve into all the individual stories here, because I don’t want to reveal any plot spoilers, but one of the characters is an old woman desperately hoping for the return of her son, missing for many years. Her story really touched me the most.
Frankenstein in Baghdad won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and Saadawi lives and works in Baghdad. I don’t read many books in translation, and want to read more. This insight into the daily life of Iraqi civilians living in, what for most of us are, unimaginable conditions. It’s grim in parts (obviously!), it’s darkly funny, and it’s satirical. A great read!
P.S. I was given this copy of the ebook in return for an honest review. Thanks NetGalley!