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Frankenstein in Baghdad : a novel
2018
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  Library Journal Review

Rising Iraqi author Saadawi offers an incisive look at local life in Baghdad in 2005. The multiple narratives of Elshiva, an ancient madwoman; Hadi the junk dealer; Majid the brigadier; and Mahmoud the journalist intersect to form a complex whole. What binds these characters together is Whatshisname, the reanimated body that Hadi has stitched together, using body parts acquired as byproduct of multiple bombings in the city. The lost soul of a soldier animates the patchwork body, and the story takes off. When Whatshisname visits Elshiva, she believes he is her dead son Daniel. He also visits Hadi, his maker, then embarks on a killing spree to avenge all the people who comprise his parts. As a piece of his body is avenged that piece falls off, leading to a need for a replacement parts. When Hadi tells Mahmoud about this Frankenstein-like character, Mahmoud writes an explosive story for his magazine. The brigadier's paramilitary gets wind of the story and seeks to capture and kill the invulnerable monster. Verdict Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, this complex novel weaves the experiences of a diverse group of Iraqis during the chaos of internecine warfare. This Iraqi perspective is one that may surprise and challenge casual readers; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 7/31/17.]-Henry Bankhead, San Rafael P.L., CA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

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. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
*Man Booker International Prize finalist*<br> <br> "Brave and ingenious." -- The New York Times <br> <br> "Gripping, darkly humorous . . . profound." --Phil Klay, bestselling author and National Book Award winner for Redeployment <br> <br> "Extraordinary . . . A devastating but essential read." --Kevin Powers, bestselling author and National Book Award finalist for The Yellow Birds <br> <br> 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.
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