Frankenstein and the war in Iraq

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Torn apart and stitched together

Frankenstein in Baghdad. By Ahmed Saadawi. Translated by Jonathan Wright. Penguin Books; 281 pages; $16. Oneworld; £12.99.

“I’M THE first true Iraqi citizen.” Such is the bold claim of the monster in Ahmed Saadawi’s “Frankenstein in Baghdad”. His misanthropic creator—an alcoholic, bitter junk-dealer—assembled him out of an ethnically diverse assortment of body parts, scavenged carefully from the remains of suicide-bombing victims. The Whatsitsname, as the creature is known, represents the “impossible mix that was never achieved in the past”.

At first glance, a 19th-century gothic novel set between the Alps and the Arctic might seem an unlikely vehicle to explore the social intricacies of war-ravaged, American-occupied Baghdad. But the conceit proves surprisingly apt. Like his precursor, the Whatsitsname is an existentially bereft soul thirsting to make sense of…Continue reading

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