Frankenstein in Baghdad

Pages: 272
Subject: Fiction, Translated Fiction
Imprint: Oneworld

Frankenstein in Baghdad

Ahmed Saadawi

Translated by Jonathan Wright
A satirical reimagining of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein set in war-torn Baghdad
9781786070609 (1 Feb 2018)
RRP £12.99

The Book




'Extraordinary... A devastating but essential read.' Kevin Powers, bestselling author and National Book Award finalist for The Yellow Birds

'Gripping, darkly humorous...profound.' Phil Klay, bestselling author and National Book Award winner for Redeployment

From the rubble-strewn streets of US-occupied Baghdad, the scavenger Hadi 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 give them a 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 realises he has created a monster, one that needs human flesh to survive - first from the guilty, and then from anyone who crosses its path.

An extraordinary achievement, Frankenstein in Baghdad captures with white-knuckle horror and black humour the surreal reality of a city at war.

Additional Information

Subject Fiction, Translated Fiction
Pages 272
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Ahmed Saadawi is an Iraqi novelist, poet, screenwriter and documentary filmmaker. In 2010 he was selected for Beirut39, as one of the thirty-nine best Arab authors under the age of forty, and in 2014 he became the first Iraqi to win the prestigious International Prize for Arabic Fiction. This prize was awarded to Frankenstein in Baghdad, which also won Le Grand Prix de L'Imaginaire in 2017. He lives in Baghdad.

Jonathan Wright studied Arabic at Oxford University. He is the translator of Hassan Blasim's The Corpse Exhibition, which won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2014. He lives in London.


‘Saadawi's strange, violent and wickedly funny book borrows heavily from the science fiction canon, and pays back the debt with interest: it is a remarkable achievement, and one that, regrettably, is unlikely ever to lose its urgent relevancy.'

- Guardian

'[Saadawi is] Baghdad's new literary star.'

- New York Times

'Out of this limbo of unfinished business, from a people suspended in agony between present and past, life and death, Ahmed Saadawi has wrenched a fable that puts a cherished Romantic myth to urgent new use... Surely, no updated journey will be more necessary than Saadawi's. Sinister, satirical, ferociously comic but oddly moving...the myth holds firm, and the metaphors strike hard.'

- Spectator

'Frankenstein in Baghdad is complex but very readable and darkly humorous; it has well-observed characters, whose back stories reflect the wider context. The monster is a metaphor both for the physical horrors of Iraq, and for the development of groups within that chaos. The translation by Jonathan Wright is first-rate.'

- Times Literary Supplement

'Helped by Jonathan Wright's elegant and witty translation, which reaches for and attains bracing pathos, Saadawi's novel mixes a range of characters and their voices to surprising, even jolting effect...a remarkable book.'

- Observer

'A darkly delightful novel… Detective story and satire as well as gothic horror, Frankenstein in Baghdad provides a tragicomic take on a society afflicted by fear, and a parable concerning responsibility and justice.'

- New Statesman

'[Frankenstein in Baghdad] is more than just a black comedy. It's as much of a crossbreed as its ghoulish hero - part thriller, part horror, part social commentary... Saadawi, slickly translated by Jonathan Wright, captures the atmosphere of war-torn Baghdad with the swiftest of penstrokes, and picks out details that make the reader feel, and even taste, the aftermath of the explosions that pepper the book.'

- Financial Times

'Saadawi's more than an extended metaphor for the interminable carnage in Iraq and the precarious nature of its body politic. It also intimately depicts the lives of those affected by the conflict [and] offer[s] a glimpse into the day-to-day experiences of a society fractured by bloodshed.'

- The Economist

'An extraordinary piece of work. With uncompromising focus, Ahmed Saadawi takes you right to the wounded heart of war's absurd and tragic wreckage. A devastating but essential read.'

- Kevin Powers, bestselling author of the National Book Award finalist The Yellow Birds

‘This adroitly written literary fiction ingeniously blends absurdist horror with a mordantly funny satire about life in a war-torn city… Extraordinary in its scope and inventiveness.'

- Irish Times

‘A bold literary conceit and executed with some aplomb.'

- Mail on Sunday

'A fantastical manifestation of war's cruelties... Saadawi blends the unearthly, the horrific and the mundane to terrific effect… There's a freshness to both his voice and vision… What happened in Iraq was a spiritual disaster, and this brave and ingenious novel takes that idea and uncorks all its possible meanings.'

- New York Times Book Review

'Frankenstein in Baghdad gives an intimate, tragicomic look at the Iraq War through the lens of a small neighbourhood in U.S.-occupied Baghdad... Come for the fascinating plot; stay for the dark humour and devastating view of humanity.'

- Washington Post

‘Brilliantly conceived…feels both timely and prescient.'

- Totally Dublin

'Saadawi strikes a feverish balance between fantasy and hard realism in Frankenstein in Baghdad... Baghdad-born and still living the Iraqi capital, [he] delivers a vision of his war-mangled city that's hard to forget.'

- The Seattle Times

'Ahmed Sadaawi's darkly comic fable is a fusion of the surreal, the gothic and bleak reality… A poignant and painful portrayal of a country whose ghosts have yet to be exorcised.'

- Literary Review

'Powerful...surreal...darkly humorous... Cleverly conscripts a macabre character from a venerable literary work in the service of a modern-day cautionary fable... An excellent English translation.'

- Chicago Tribune

'Frankenstein in Baghdad is an intriguing and inventive appropriation of a classic tale which underlines the endless possibilities for novels of war.'

- Bath Life Magazine

'A macabre yet bleakly funny spin on the story of Frankenstein which vividly captures the atmosphere of a city at war.'

- Book Riot

'Brilliant... Crisp, moving, and mordantly humorous... Like Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse-Five, Frankenstein in Baghdad plays the absurd normality of war for dark humour... The monster is a powerful metaphor, but the real reason the novel works is because Saadawi writes with a rare combination of generosity, cruelty, and black humour. He has a journalist's eye for detail and a cartoonist's sense of satire.'

- The New Republic

'A harrowing and affecting look at the day-to-day life of war-torn Iraq.'

- Publishers Weekly

'Frankenstein in Baghdad is a graphic portrait of perpetual war. [It] assembles from the carnage of the ongoing crisis in Iraq a monster that, echoing Mary Shelley's creation, reflects back upon us the inhumanity of our own actions and the ways war spirals out of control, leaving devastation in its wake.'

- Lit Hub

'As with any great literary work, this novel doesn't just tell a story. Rather, it unfolds across multiple dimensions, each layer peeling back to reveal something new... Exquisitely translated by Jonathan Wright, this novel breaks through the superficial news stories and helps us see more clearly what the American invasion has wrought, how violence begets violence, and how tenuous is the line between innocence and guilt. Brilliant and horrifying, Frankenstein in Baghdad is essential reading.'

- World Literature Today

'Outrageously adroit...this haunting novel brazenly confronts the violence visited upon this country by those who did not call it home. A startling way to teach an old lesson: an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.'

- Kirkus

'There is no shortage of wonderful, literate Frankenstein reimaginings...but few so viscerally mine Shelley's story for its metaphoric riches... In graceful, economical prose, Saadawi places us in a city of ghosts, where missing people return all the time, justice is fleeting, and even good intentions rot... A haunting and startling mix of horror, mystery, and tragedy.'

- Booklist, starred review

'This gripping, darkly humorous fable of post-invasion Baghdad is a profound exploration of the terrible logic of violence and vengeance.'

- Phil Klay, National Book Award–winning author of Redeployment

‘Harrowing subject matter and a fractured structure…make this a challenging read.  But this sad, clever tale of unintended consequences and a city torn apart is well worth the effort.'


'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.'

- Library Journal

'Expertly told... A significant addition to contemporary Arabic fiction.'

- Judges’ citation, International Prize for Arabic Fiction

'A remarkable book from the heart of terror, where violence dissolves the divide between reality and unreality.'

- Thomas McGuane, author of The Longest Silence

'A painful and powerful story.'

- Hassan Blasim, author of The Corpse Exhibition

‘Uses Kafka-esque scenarios and magic realism to convey just how surreal and nightmarish day-to-day life for Iraqis has become.' 

- Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

‘Matter-of-factly, Saadawi sets out a reality - Baghdad in 2005 - so gothic in its details…that, when the novel makes a turn to the supernatural, it barely shocks.' 

- The New Yorker

'A haunting allegory for sectarian violence.'

- Alexandra Alter, The New York Times

'A haunting allegory of man's savagery against man and one of the most essential books to come out of the Iraq War, or any war.'

- Elliot Ackerman, National Book Award finalist for Dark at the Crossing

'Ahmed Saadawi has divined a dark, rapturous metaphor within the landscape of post-9/11 Iraq and, channeling Gabriel García Márquez, has written a love song to the humanity that endures even amid the ruins of war.'

- Lea Carpenter, author of Eleven Days

'Frankenstein in Baghdad is a quietly ferocious thing, a dark, imaginative dissection of the cyclical absurdity of violence. From the terrible aftermath of one of the most destructive, unnecessary wars in modern history, Ahmed Saadawi has crafted a novel that will be remembered.'

- Omar El Akkad, author of American War

'Weaving as seamlessly from parable to realism as a needle weaves a tapestry, Frankenstein in Baghdad perfectly captures the absurdity, mayhem, and tragedy of war. Mahmoud the hapless journalist, Hadi the unwitting Dr. Frankenstein, and Elishva the mother are all profoundly human and appealing, our guides to a rare glimpse of the human beings on the receiving ends of our wars. Funny, bizarre, and captivating, this is a must-read for all Americans who are curious to see the war at last from an Iraqi point of view.'

- Helen Benedict, author of Wolf Season and Sand Queen

'Horrifically funny and allegorically resonant, Frankenstein in Baghdad captures very well the mood of macabre violence that gripped Baghdad in 2005.'

- Brian Van Reet, author of Spoils