CAIRO: Iraqi writer and poet Ahmed Saadawy won the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his novel “Frankenstein in Baghdad”.
Saadawy was announced as the prize recipient during a Tuesday ceremony in Abu Dhabi. His prizes include $50,000 and a guarantee that his novel will be translated into English.
Saadawy’s novel tells the story of a merchant at a local neighborhood in Baghdad. The merchant, named Hady el-Attag, sews together the body parts of those who died during the surge of explosions in spring 2005.
Once each body part is pieced together, a whole body is formed and then given life. The creature’s name becomes “al-Shoessmo”, which translates into “the nameless”. However, authorities call him criminal X, and others call the creature Frankenstein. The creature soon begins to seek revenge on those who killed the people of each limb.
“Frankenstein in Bagdad” was chosen from among 156 Arabic novels from 18 Arabic-speaking countries. On the prize’s website, Saad al-Bazaey commented on how the jury chose the novel, saying “We chose ‘Frankenstein in Baghdad’ for several reasons. Firstly, for the originality of its narrative structure, as represented in the ‘what’s-its-name’ character, who embodies the violence currently experienced in Iraq, other Arab countries and the wider world. The story is expertly told on several levels and from multiple viewpoints.”
“For these reasons and more, ‘Frankenstein in Baghdad’ is a significant addition to contemporary Arabic fiction,” said Bazaey during the celebration.
Yasir Suleiman, professor of Modern Arabic Studies and chairperson of the board of IPAF Trustees, said “Ahmed Saadawy’s ‘Frankenstein in Baghdad’ is an outstanding achievement, teeming with characters who are both earthy and real but also transcend reality.”
“Although set in Baghdad, its subject matter goes beyond that city to embrace humanity everywhere,” Suleiman told the prize’s website.
Six novels were on the short list for the prize, which were announced during a February press conference in Jordan. The book prize is renowned as one of the highest prizes in the Arab world.
Saadawy also works on documentaries and has three other novels published in addition to a poetry book, according to the writers’ biography on the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.