Book Summary: Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi

Updated on February 12, 2018
JynBranton profile image

An avid book nerd, Jennifer Branton loves to share her favorite book finds with her readers.

A Terrifying Modern Take On A Classic Horror Story

A modern take on Mary Shelley's tale of a man composed of body parts and raised in the in interest of biology, this Frankenstein story has a far more sinister intent. Frankenstein In Baghdad, set in the backdrop of the U.S. occupation in Baghdad, a junk dealer named Hadi, creates his own form on the monster- with the intention of making the government realize the cost of the human lives in this crisis by cobbling together pieces of victims hoping that they will see a proper burial.

Told from several perspectives, residents and journalists occupying a nearby hotel to write pieces on the every day occurrences of bombings and violence, Ahmed Saadawi says more about the human condition in Frankenstein In Baghdad then perhaps most history book accounts on the issue and the book has been awarded The International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

Living in the ruins of their city, in homes they refuse to abandon with missing roofs and collapsed upper levels, people like Elishva, an elderly Christian woman with adult daughters have since left the country to find safety in Australia, refuses to leave the country at her own risk with her falling apart house in the hopes that a son, Daniel that was drafted as a young teen will eventually return home.

Trying to take advantage of the situation, people like the realtor, Faraj try repeatedly to buy the crumbling homes out from under residents to expand properties like the hotel where the press is staying. He has some sort of respect for Hadi though, and says nothing about his constructed lean-to that perches against a still standing wall of Elishva's home that she refuses to leave.

When Hadi comes up with his idea for an effigy made of body parts of victims of terror attacks, he first feels that it will make a powerful statement to the government, or so he claims drunkenly at the cafe' with friends. His interest are a little more curious than political and actually after working on his creation, with a nose stolen from a victim here, some fingers taken off an officer than killed an innocent there, and bits of flesh hastily sewn together, Hadi is pleased enough with his creation until he passes out.

Naming it the Whatsit, the creature shambles into the next building, the home of Elishva out of curiosity, but like the story of Shelley's monster, it is shown kindness and the old woman thinks that her prayers to Saint George have been answered and that this meat puppet is somehow the soul of her son Daniel.

Having an identity now, Daniel begins to recover memories of where his parts have come from and a set of strange deaths begin around the city baffling the police force.

Like Mary Shelley's monster, once shown kindness and given the name of Elishva's missing son, Daniel, the monster now has an identity and a mission.

Parts And Memory

Daniel, the Whatsit, or even Suspect X as he is also known by the police and media- remembers crimes that the parts of him were connected to and tries to right those wrongs by killing avenging those that were harmed. The pieces that make up Daniel feed his memory, and when he has done this task, that piece then falls off. After awhile, Daniel feels that he is starting to flake apart but those that knew about Hadi's creation only seek to re-infuse life and more purpose into their fleshy weapon by replacing the failing portions.

Daniel continues to kill.

In the meantime various journalists are tracing the story and Mahmoud even gets a taped confession tape from Daniel explaining the whole situation from his point of view. Mahmoud plans to release the story but is detained by the police and for a short time suspect to the crimes.

Faraj in the meantime still continues to try to get the properties like Elishva's and actually has someone come to her home posed as her son to get her to sign over her home, which he finally occupies.

Daniel finds out about this and does what he can to help his first friend after she is swindled by the realtor.

In the daily violence, eventually Hadi is caught in an explosion and though alive is disfigured enough that he is taken into custody and accused of being the monster that is killing people that the journalists like Mahmoud have been writing about.

Daniel goes back to what is left of Elishva's home and spends the night snuggled with her last remaining cat as so many of her other pets had been killed during the daily events like the bombings that destroyed most of her home,

Eventually when the neighborhood where Elishva's home was located is expanded into the grounds of the hotel, the cat is present and being petted by a strange man that no one really gets a good look at- hinting that Daniel may have added more pieces to himself and was now out of hiding as Hadi has been arrested for terrorism in connection to all these deaths.

Frankenstein In Baghdad is a captivating read not only encapsulating a time in history that I don't recall much about as I was about in junior high and only hearing about the details of war through what aired on the nightly news. To see this perspective of daily life from an Arabic perspective and understand the hopes and values of these people are all the same as our own, painted with the backdrop of this haunting modern horror story was really grotesque and beautiful at the same time.

This novel is a chilling read and hard to put down, in fact I finished it in about two sittings. The clash of historic events and a modern take on the Frankenstein monster was purely brilliant.

Ahmed Saadawi has also received France's Grand Prize for Fantasy and is a documentary filmmaker, and poet.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)