Ahmed Saadawi’s ‘Frankenstein in Baghdad’ Makes Man Booker International’s 2018 Shortlist

A spirit breathes life into the assembled parts to produce a creature that Hadi calls the Whatsitsname, while the authorities call it Criminal X. John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet, and   George Szirtes. Each year, the winning team’s £50,000 prize is divided equally between author and translator(s). At the end of 2014,   Publisher’s Weekly   asked acclaimed Iraqi writer Hassan Blasim to name his favorite book   of the year. In an enjoyable and intelligent style, Saadawi tells the story of Hadi, a peddler in a poor part of Baghdad who collects and repairs body parts from people who have been ripped apart in explosions. Krasznahorkai won the prize in its former iteration in 2015, when it was awarded to an author’s body of work. The MBI’s 2018 shortlist includes three former MBI laureates: Han Kang and Deborah Smith, who co-won the 2016 MBI with   The Vegetarian, and László Krasznahorkai for   The World Goes On, tr. His lively style is reminiscent of horror movies and detective stories, with touches of black comedy. In vain, Saadawi’s novel seeks justice in the labyrinthine chaos of violence in Iraq. The creature exacts revenge on all those who helped kill the people to whom the body parts belonged. Saadawi, who was born in Baghdad in 1973, was won a number of awards, including a place among the “Beirut39,” a 2010 list of top 39 Arab novelists under 40. Blasim, who chose   Frankenstein in Baghdad,   said:
Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad courageously confronts the bizarre events set in motion by the violence after the American occupation of Iraq. The winner of the 2018 prize is set to be announced May 22 in London. The original Arabic, which came out in 2013, won the 2014 IPAF. This year’s judging panel was chaired by author Lisa Appignanesi. The other judges were poet-translator Michael Hofmann, author Hari Kunzru, literary critic   Tim Martin, and novelist Helen Oyeyemi. He has published a volume of poetry, Anniversary of Bad Songs (2000), and two previous novels: The Beautiful Country, in 2004, and Indeed He Dreams or Plays or Dies (2008). Saadawi also has a compelling collection of forthcoming short stories — running the gamut from dark absurdism to science fiction — as well as one in the collection   Baghdad Noir,   ed. On Thursday evening, the Man Booker International (MBI) revealed their 2018 shortlist, celebrating “the finest works of translated fiction from around the world” translated to English:
Among the six books chosen for the shortlist was Ahmed Saadawi’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction-winning   Frankenstein in Baghdad,   translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright and published this January. It’s a painful and powerful story that goes beyond the limits of reality, in an attempt to reach the essence of the cruelty of wars that disfigure the human spirit and society, as fire disfigures skin. Al-Mustafa Najjar interviews Saadawi:   ‘The Novel Implicitly Questions This Concept of Salvation’


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