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review 2018-03-22 00:21
FRANKENSTEIN IN BAGHDAD
Frankenstein in Baghdad: A Novel - Ahmed Saadawi
“Because I'm made up of body parts of people from diverse backgrounds - ethnicities, tribes, races and social classes - I represent the impossible mix that never was achieved in the past. I'm the first true Iraqi citizen, he (the Whatsitsname) thinks.”

I'm completely gobsmacked after finishing FRANKENSTEIN IN BAGHDAD. I didn't really know what to expect. I'm not usually a big horror reader, but this sounded so interesting, I decided how could it hurt to try? So I borrowed the fairly short library book, telling myself I could just give it back if I wasn't into it. Not only was I into it, I read it quickly in two sittings and I've been talking about this and one other book to anyone who will listen for days.

 

The large number of characters are fully realized and formed. It's incredibly complex and has a deep, twisty narrative with various interwoven storylines. It's satire, dark witty humor, and on a surface level both funny and freakish. Then the minute you think for a second about what's going on, this horror novel is deeply disturbing on myriad levels. It's allegorical, it's a straight-up retelling of Shelley's Frankenstein, it's a government spoof, and a few other things.

 

In US-occupied Baghdad, we start off with classified documents about a "story." It involves all the usual nonsense the US government is fond of doing, and my first thought was "I can see the government classifying everything and arresting people for a story." Seemed highly realistic to me. 

 

It may be a substandard horror novel. I wasn't scared. It may be a poor translation, or it may simply be that the terror is found in a different reading. I was disturbed and slightly tortured about the underlying message and circumstance being satirized -- the American occupation of Baghdad, the constant drones, the literal blowing-apart of both people and a country. 

 

There is some true brilliance of social, political, national, religious, human, etc commentary offered.Some people found it "slow." I'd guess they were looking for a horror novel only, not one that integrates the many facets this novel brings. 

 

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review 2018-03-06 16:57
A book that will enthrall fans of Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and people interested in XIX century true crime.
The Face of a Monster: America's Frankenstein - Patricia Earnest Suter

I was provided an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Most of us have wondered more than once about the nature of fiction and the, sometimes, thin line separating reality from fiction. Although we assume that, on most occasions, fiction imitates reality, sometimes fiction can inspire reality (for better or for worse) and sometimes reality seems to imitate fiction (even if it is just a matter of perception). And although Slavoj Žižek and postmodernism might come to mind, none of those matters are new.

Suter’s non-fiction book combines three topics that are worthy of entire books (and some have been written about at length): Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Mary’s own life, and Anton Probst’s life and the murders he committed. Each chapter of the book alternates between the chronological (up to a point) stories of Shelley and Probst, and comparisons of the developments and events in the “life” (fictional, but nonetheless important) of Frankenstein’s creature. The author uses quotes and close- text-analysis of Frankenstein, and also interprets the text based on the biography of Shelley, to explain how the creature ended up becoming a monster. Although the novel is an early example of science-fiction/horror, many of the subjects it touched belong in literature at large. Nature versus nurture (is the creature bad because of the parts used to make him, or because nobody shows him care and affection?), science versus morality and religion (can knowledge be its own justification, or should there be something of a higher order limiting experiments), prejudice, mob mentality, revenge, loneliness and isolation…

Shelley’s life, marked by tragedy from the very beginning (her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, died when Mary was only eleven days old) was dominated by men who never returned her affection and who were happy to blame her for any disasters that happened. She was part of a fascinating group, but, being a woman, she was never acknowledged and did not truly belong in the same circle, and it seems an example of poetic justice that her book has survived, and even overtaken in fame, the works of those men that seemed so important at the time (Lord Byron, Percy B. Shelley…).

I was familiar with Frankenstein and with the life of Mary Shelley and her mother (although I am not an expert) but had not heard about Probst. The author has done extensive research on the subject and provides detailed information about the life of the murderer, and, perhaps more interesting still, his trial and what happened after. That part of the book is invaluable to anybody interested in the development of crime detection in late XIX century America (his crimes took place in Philadelphia, although he was born in Germany), the nature of trials at the time, the history of the prison service, executions, the role of the press and the nature of true crime publications, and also in the state of medical science in that era and the popular experiments and demonstrations that abounded (anatomical dissections, phrenology, galvanism were all the rage, and using the bodies of those who had been punished with the death penalty for experiments was quite common). Human curiosity has always been spurred by the macabre, and then, as much as now, the spectacle of a being that seemed to have gone beyond the bounds of normal behaviour enthralled the public. People stole mementos from the scene of the crime, queued to see the bodies of the victims, and later to see parts of the murderer that were being exhibited. Some things seem to change little.

Each part of the book is well researched and well written (some of the events are mentioned more than once to elaborate a point but justifiably so) and its overall argument is a compelling one, although perhaps not one that will attract all readers. There are indeed parallels and curious similarities in the cases, although for some this might be due to the skill of the writer and might not be evident to somebody looking at Probst’s case in isolation. Even then, this does not diminish from the expertise of the author or from the engrossing topics she has chosen. This is a book that makes its readers think about fame, literature, creativity, family, imaginary and true monsters, crime, victims, and the way we talk and write about crime and criminals. Then and now.

I’d recommend this book to readers interested in Frankenstein and Mary Shelley’s work and life, also to people interested in true crime, in particular, XIX century crime in the US. As a writer, I thought this book would be of great interest to writers researching crime enforcement and serial killers in XIX century America, emigration, and also the social history of the time. And if we feel complacent when we read about the behaviour of the experts and the common people when confronted with Probst and his murders, remember to look around you and you’ll see things haven’t changed that much.

The author also provides extensive notes at the end of the book, where she cites all her sources.

 

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review 2018-01-13 12:22
Original and thought provoking
Frankenstein in Baghdad: A Novel - Ahmed Saadawi

What drew me to this novel was the intriguing title. When I think of Frankenstein I am immediately drawn to the depiction of this "monster" in the writing of Mary Shelley. Was this grotesque creature someone who attracted our sympathy or loathing; the answer is probably both. Frankenstein in Baghdad gives a modern twist to the story taking place in a war ravaged community. Hadi is a scavenger who makes a living by collecting junk and resalable items from the US occupied streets of Bagdad. This rather oddball figure also acquires human body parts and by stitching them together creates his own freak referred to as Whatsitsname, who has also inherited the soul of Hasib Mohamed Jaafar a dead security guard at the Novotel Hotel..."Because I'm made up of body parts of people from diverse backgrounds-ethnicities, tribes, races and social classes.".....The purpose of this creation and the heart of "Frankenstein in Baghdad" is to showcase war as a futile exercise where the greed and ambition of a few adds to the misery, desolation and despair of the masses..."to bring about justice in this world which has been totally ravaged by greed, ambition, megalomania, and insatiable bloodlust."

 

The novel is told through the eyes of a number of Baghdad residents in particular Elishva an elderly widow, in mourning for her son Daniel, who believes that Whatsitsname is his reincarnation, Mahmoud al-Sawadi a young ambitious journalist and Brigadier Majid head of the Tracking and Pursuit Department. It is a story that brought alive the smells and constant danger of a city and community at war and the inevitable casualties and heartache that an innocent population must inevitably pay. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-12-28 16:15
Project Frankenstein Comes to an End with this Latest Review
Frankenstein and Philosophy: The Shocking Truth (Popular Culture and Philosophy) - Nicolas Michaud

 

Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com on December 28, 2017.

 

 

The book might have been repetitive but it did leave me with some interesting ideas, such as:

Sewing human parts together doesn’t rewrite their DNA, so any monster children will be built on normal human DNA.

The context here was the theory that if Victor was clever enough to make a human being, he surely could have created a woman who couldn’t conceive. So, his reason for not making a companion for the monster wasn’t that sound. To which I thought, what was to stop the monster from forcing Victor to make another female — one who WOULD conceive once the former had given in? Or, franken-children, the next time?

If the monster is that brilliant, he should be able to construct a woman himself and then sail off with her in his home-made submarine.

This part is from a chapter that insists that Victor fears the genius of the monster, which is the actual reason behind his refusal to build a franken-woman. After all, the monster was clever enough to teach himself to talk — one might add, in quite lyrical prose!

Then there was a chapter on Frankenfood (GMOs) and how certain scientific progress can be likened to what Victor did, such as genetic engineering:

biotechnologists often select organisms’ features aiming at enhancing their natural beauty

as well as, electroporation:

cells’ membranes are destabilized by means of electric shocks (an echo of what breathed life into the Monster?)

In the novel, Mary Shelley insinuates an untoward relationship between Justine and the Baron after the death of Ms. Moritz.

Really? How did I miss that? Did anyone else notice this?

It might be that Victor was changing some parts of his story for Walton when he related his tale.

It does feel surprising how we all just take Victor’s word for what happened. Could he have not been lying? And while we are on that subject, what is the deal with Walton going gaga over him? Isn’t the monster supposed to have a silver tongue? Why is what Victor saying affecting Walton on such an intimate level? What did he do to inspire such loyalty?

 

On the subject of “rogues”, a part of the philosophical book by Jacques Derrida on how we love alienating others from the general population. Anyone who doesn’t fit is labeled a rogue:

a monster which is foreign, strange and misunderstood are trying to point out that which is other to them represents a threat.

This fits beautifully with the way people have reacted to an influx of Syrian refugees into their countries. Furthermore:

using a twisted logic that says more about him or her than it does about the Other.

This brings me to something that I have been meaning to look into. Transgenders have been looked down upon and denied a voice, rights etc. for centuries. When did society start blaming them for being other? How did being born this way become their fault? I think I might have come across a book about transgender history on Instagram. Worth a revisit, right?

who think they are in the right because they are in the majority have a power and strnegth in numbers and in traditions and habits, giving themselves a sense of authority to judge someone outside of their group.

What do I need to say to that that hasn’t already been said? Maybe this:

 

 

it causes a normative, indeed performative, evaluation, a disdainful or threatening insult, an appellation that initiates an inquiry and prepares a prosecution before the law.

We all know what an “inquiry” can do!

a judgment that goes beyond calling someone “wrong”; it shows hatred and ill-intent.

a system of judgment where the monster can never be “good.”

(calling ourselves humans) through language, thus in the very way that is denied to those who are being labeled(otherwise).

creating an enemy for themselves, and in turn become an enemy to someone who already feels threatened.

Brings to mind the many times Islamophobia has resulted in people getting hurt!

In the same way, a foreigner who looks like a native citizen presents a threat that a readily identifiable foreigner does not. 

Easy to single out the other when they have beards — or not. I’d also like to mention the Bangladeshi revolution here and the atrocities committed by both sides! Then there is also the Holocaust that is never far from our imagination.

 

The quotes that stayed with me:

 

 

 

And some funny parts, including:

regularly enchanted by nature, to the point that Clerval goes into aesthetic rapture at least twice a day, when the sun rises and sets.

 

 

And the new terms I came across:

 

 

Here are some transhumanistic advances for you to enjoy.

 

 

This brought me to an important question:

 

 

As I end Project Frankenstein, I come to the conclusion that the monster isn’t just a villain. He can be used as an analogy for a myriad of topics. That can only be true because:

 

 

Other Useful Links

Project Frankenstein

Status of Project Frankenstein

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review 2017-12-13 11:01
Er ging Zigarettenholen
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

„Frankenstein“ (Untertitel: „The Modern Prometheus“) von Mary Shelley ist meiner Meinung nach Pflichtlektüre, interessiert man sich für Fantastik- und Science-Fiction-Literatur. 1818 anonym erstveröffentlicht, entwickelte es sich zu Shelleys bekanntestem Werk, das die Pop-Kultur wie kein zweites prägte. Die damals 18-jährige Autorin wurde von einem Albtraum inspiriert, der sie 1816 heimsuchte, während sie in Begleitung ihres Ehemannes Percy Bysshe Shelley und ihrer Stiefschwester Claire Clairmont Lord Byron in Genf besuchte. Bis heute ist umstritten, welche Einflüsse Mary Shelleys Traum auslösten, es scheint jedoch sicher, dass der in der Gruppe diskutierte Galvanismus ein entscheidender Faktor war. Für mich spielt es letztendlich keine Rolle, warum Shelley die Geschichte des Wissenschaftlers Victor Frankenstein niederschrieb – ich freue mich einfach, dass ich sie 200 Jahre später lesen kann.

 

Von Kindesbeinen an wird Victor Frankenstein von seinem unstillbaren Verlangen nach Erkenntnissen getrieben. Sein Wissensdurst ist grenzenlos. Er trachtet danach, die Geheimnisse von Leben und Tod zu entschlüsseln. Als Student in Ingolstadt profitiert er von den jüngsten Ergebnissen der modernen Forschung des 19. Jahrhunderts. Erfüllt von fieberhaftem Ehrgeiz gelingt ihm, wozu nur Gott fähig sein sollte: die Belebung toten Fleisches. Berauscht erschafft Frankenstein die unheilige Kopie eines Menschen. Doch seine Schöpfung entpuppt sich als abstoßend, monströs. Angewidert von der Frucht seiner Arbeit wendet sich Frankenstein ab. Die Ablehnung seines pervertierten Kindes wird ihm zum Verhängnis, denn das Monster weigert sich, seine Zurückweisung zu akzeptieren. Verbunden durch gegenseitigen Hass beginnen Schöpfer und Schöpfung einen tödlichen Tanz, der sie bis ans Ende der Welt führt.

 

„Frankenstein“ von Mary Shelley gilt als der erste Science-Fiction-Roman der Geschichte. Es ist immer schwierig, einen Klassiker, der so großen Einfluss auf Literatur und Kultur hatte, zu rezensieren. Oberflächlich scheint „Frankenstein“ lediglich der Unterhaltung zu dienen; erst in der Tiefe offenbaren sich zahlreiche elementare Themen, die sich um die zentrale Schöpfungsgeschichte des namenlosen Monsters herumranken. Dadurch entsteht eine verblüffende Ambiguität, die eine gradlinige Einteilung in Gut und Böse strikt verweigert. Die psychologisch konsequente, realistische Konstruktion der Protagonisten erlaubt der Geschichte, weit über diese engen Dimensionen hinauszuwachsen. „Frankenstein“ enthüllt sich als Tragödie dunkelster Couleur, die unausweichlich fatal enden muss. Ich war in vielerlei Hinsicht von der Lektüre überrascht. Am meisten erstaunte mich, dass ich Victor Frankenstein seinem Monster vorzog. Ich bin vom Gegenteil ausgegangen. Ein Grund ist sicher die Ich-Perspektive des ehrgeizigen Wissenschaftlers, doch diese Erklärung genügt nicht, um meine Schwierigkeiten mit dem Monster zu determinieren. Obwohl ich den Status der Kreatur als einsame, enttäuschte und verlassene Schöpfung anerkenne und objektiv Mitgefühl empfinde, stieß mich ihre aggressiv-explosive Seite ab. Das Monster ist kein rehäugiger, sanfter Galan, es wird von Zorn und Rachsucht beherrscht. Selbstverständlich sind diese Gefühle gerechtfertigt, aber die Verbissenheit, mit der es eine tödliche Fehde mit Frankenstein provoziert, erschien mir kleingeistig, selbstzerstörerisch und seines intellektuellen Potentials nicht würdig. Anstatt die Zurückweisung seines Schöpfers als Chance zu interpretieren und seine miserable Existenz eigenständig zu verbessern, reagiert es jähzornig und gewalttätig, wenn seine plumpen, ungelenken Versuche, Kontakt mit der Gesellschaft aufzunehmen, scheitern und versteift sich auf die widerwärtig egoistische und gewissenlose Idee, Frankenstein schulde ihm eine Gefährtin. Als dieser ablehnt, gewinnt der obsessive Hass des Monsters auf seinen Schöpfer die Oberhand. Aufgrund dieser Negativentwicklung war ich nicht in der Lage, mich dem Monster emotional zu nähern. Das heißt jedoch nicht, dass ich Victor Frankenstein als Opfer betrachte. Von Arroganz geblendet und frei von Demut schwingt er sich eigennützig zum Schöpfer auf, leugnet seine menschliche Fehlbarkeit, die ihm erst der erschreckende Anblick seiner Schöpfung vor Augen führt. Er bereut, dass er keinen Menschen nach seinem Abbild formen konnte. Er bereut nicht, sich überhaupt an der Schöpfung vergangen zu haben. Er ist sich bis zum Ende keiner Schuld bewusst, spricht sich von jeglicher Verantwortung frei und weigert sich, sein Versagen hinsichtlich seiner bizarren Elternrolle einzugestehen. Mit seiner gleichgültigen Grausamkeit verdammt er das Monster und sich selbst unwiderruflich. Die Sünde, seine Schöpfung im Stich zu lassen, ist unverzeihlich. Victor Frankenstein ist ein Vater, der Zigarettenholen ging und nie zurückkehrte.

 

Mary Shelley war ihrer Zeit weit voraus. Nicht nur literarisch, als Begründerin eines komplett neuen Genres, sondern auch gesellschaftsphilosophisch. „Frankenstein“ ist eine anregende Diskussion des Rechts auf Leben, der Position des Individuums in der Gesellschaft und des Grabens zwischen Schöpfer und Schöpfung. Obwohl Mary Shelley keine überragende Autorin war, kaschierte sie ihre Schwächen elegant und wirkungsvoll, indem sie sich hinter ihrer Geschichte völlig zurücknahm und ihren Figuren bescheiden das Rampenlicht überließ. Für mich war die Lektüre interessant und wertvoll, weil sie mir die ursprüngliche Form der Legende des Victor Frankenstein fernab von verfälschten Verfilmungen näherbrachte, die Erzählung, die der historische Beginn der Science-Fiction war. Ich hoffe, dass Mary Shelley im Jenseits beobachten kann, wie viel sie für die (weibliche) Literatur getan hat und sich daran erfreut, dass ihr Roman, der einst einem Albtraum entsprang, 200 Jahre nach seinem Erscheinen noch immer gelesen wird.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/mary-shelley-frankenstein
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