Libmonster ID: U.S.-1380

V. N. ZARYTOVSKAYA

Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences

Peoples ' Friendship University of Russia

Keywords: modern Arabic literature, latest Iraqi literature, "The Arab Booker", Ahmed Saadawi, "Frankenstein in Baghdad"

Russian and European readers ' acquaintance with Arabic literature is often limited to works of oral folk art, such as, for example, the fairy-tale cycle "One Thousand and One Nights". Readers with a deeper interest in the East know about the pearls of the pre-Islamic era - "al-Jahiliya" and medieval poetry of the Arabs (Imru al-Qays, al-Mutanabbi, al-Maarri, etc.), and connoisseurs of modern literature appreciate the novels of the 1988 Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz or the brilliant writer Gamal al-Gitani 1.

These works were included in the treasury of world culture and had a great influence on it, but they do not exhaust the great Arabic literature. In the modern globalizing world, the artistic creativity of the Arab East, based on rich traditions, is rapidly developing, mastering, in particular, postmodern techniques, and deserves closer attention, as well as translation into the main world languages.

It is necessary to recognize that very few works of modern Arabic literature are translated and published abroad, unlike, for example, European or American. This is due to a number of factors, including the commercial disinterest of publishers, difficulties in translating Arabic texts, and the specifics of life in the Arab East, which is not shown by every publisher or reader.

However, the turbulent events that swept the Middle East and North Africa in early 2011 (the so-called "Arab Spring") forced the non-Arab world to pay attention to the crisis phenomena that were taking place in this region and to the impact they had on other countries. One of the tools for such diagnostics is modern Arabic fiction. The chronicle of events has acquired an artistic form and is shown from the point of view of individual, subjective experience. And the translation of Arabic literature has recently gained popularity as a counterpoint to media reports.2

The growth of interest in modern Arabic literature became particularly noticeable, in particular, after the events of 2003, namely, the American invasion of Iraq, but also had a purely literary incentive - the international success of the novel by the Egyptian writer Ala al-Aswani "The House of the Jacobian" (2002), translated into 22 languages, including English. and in Russian*3, and his next work "Chicago".

A logical link in the popularization of Arabic literature was the foundation in 2008 of the IPAF (International Prize for Arabic Fiction), designed to promote the recognition of high-quality Arabic fiction abroad. The award winners ' works are guaranteed to be translated into English and published outside the Arab world. The founders were the UAE Charitable Foundation, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and the organizing committee of the prestigious English Booker Prize, so the unofficial name "Arabic Booker" was assigned to the literary award.

Observers and critics have repeatedly pointed out that, due to the politicized interest in the Arab region, the prize is awarded exclusively to those authors whose works have an acute political and social orientation.4 This can be treated differently, however-


Al-Aswani A. M. Yakobyan House, Center for Humanitarian Cooperation. 2008.

page 70

Of course, the works of such subjects can not be denied relevance and artistic merit. One of these works is the novel "Frankenstein in Baghdad" by the Iraqi writer Ahmed Saadawi, which was awarded the Arab Booker Prize in 2014.

This work tells about the life of the Iraqis of the occupation period after 2003, about unexpected turns and the intersection of human destinies. Here is General Surur Majid, who throws all his forces into catching a mysterious criminal in order to clear himself before the pro-American government for serving the old regime; and journalist Mahmoud al-Sawadi, who is hiding from the revenge of a bandit who has escaped justice and become an important person; and Christian widow Elishua, who has been waiting for a son for twenty years with an Iraqi-Iranian war and unwilling to leave their native walls; and new wave entrepreneur Faraj al-Dallal, who buys up property for a song from bankrupt competitors, as well as unhappy Baghdadis fleeing from the daily threat to life.

In the very real events that unfold in this novel, elements of mysticism are interwoven, on the one hand, a team of fortune-tellers working for the security agencies, a talking icon of St. George the Victorious, the restless souls of the dead, on the other - a fantastic image in the face of a monstrous killer creature.

About science fiction as a genre of his novel, Ahmed Saadawi said the following: "The main focus of the novel is social and political, fiction is needed only to show the depth of what is happening. Fiction is not an escape from reality and not its transformation"5. It seems that it is no accident that due to the lack of a political solution to the current crisis in the country, Iraqi art, and above all literature, has focused on the topic of violence, but portrays it in a fantastic way.

The story begins with a description of the life of a drunkard and visionary Hadi-a junk dealer who daily wanders around the Iraqi capital in search of antiques and willy-nilly witnesses terrible terrorist attacks. It makes him cringe that parts of people's bodies, like ordinary garbage, remain unburied on the street. Hadi picks them up, and comes up with a crazy idea-to sew the remains of the victims ' bodies together so that they can be buried later.

However, the resulting creature is possessed at night by the soul of the hotel security guard who died in the explosion, and it comes to life in a fantastic way. Now his goal is to take revenge on those who staged the terrorist attack. But after each act of retribution, this creature discovers that the part of the body that was borrowed from the victim it avenged and "sewn" to it disappears. In order to continue taking revenge, it is now forced to "take" new body parts from the terrorists it has already killed. So, there is no end in sight to the string of murders - violence begets violence.

The killer creature gets several nicknames in the novel. Hadi, who created this likeness of a man, calls him simply-What-is-his - name, in Arabic-Schesmach, the police dubbed him Mr. X, and the journalists called him the monster Frankenstein**.

The image of "Frankenstein of Baghdad" is deeply symbolic and layered. It is not only a symbol of endless terror and incessant deaths, it is a symbol of the victim and the criminal at the same time, showing what a fine line lies between them in today's cruel world. According to the author, the theory of absolute evil and good does not stand up to criticism 6. No one is just a criminal or just a victim, who can also start taking revenge and killing on the principle of "blood for blood". Fear turns people into murderers. Thus, in the novel, one of the characters says: "The tragedy we are experiencing has one source - fear." 7

However, the "Frankenstein of Baghdad" is also the personification of the savior. Because security agencies are powerless to stop terrorist attacks and violence, and sometimes arrest the first suspect only to close the case, the dream of a lone hero who restores justice is still alive among the people. Such an archetype is generally characteristic of the literature of Arab countries.8

When asked whether Iraq really needs such a hero at the present time, A. Saadawi said that he wanted to show just such a hero in his book.


* Ahmed Saadawi (born 1973) is an Iraqi novelist, poet, screenwriter, and documentary filmmaker.

** The original "Frankenstein" was written by the English writer Mary Shelley in 1818.

page 71

the opposite is true. "You might think that Frankenstein embodies the traditional standards of justice, revenge, and establishing order. But what seems fair to one group turns out to be unfair to another, " he says.9

Assembled from the body parts of people of different faiths and ethnic groups who are represented in Iraq, an ancient country with a rich history, Frankenstein is a collective image of an Iraqi, and the author repeatedly emphasizes the heterogeneity and diversity of Iraqi society. So, one of the characters discovers that he is not of Arab or even Muslim origin, but his ancestor converted to Islam, falling in love with a Muslim woman. In the junk dealer's own house, a statue of the Virgin Mary is found behind a picture of a surah from the Koran that has fallen from the wall, and later an image of a menorah is found under its base.

The problem of national identity in Iraq became acute after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, which is shown in the novel. According to A. Saadawi, Baghdad is divided by reinforced concrete walls and checkpoints and looks like a monster, in the vents of which bloody conflicts between different ethnic or religious groups break out every day, and Bagdadians are like residents of one house who, instead of rallying, are suspicious of each other.

In connection with the problem of identity, it is also necessary to note the presence in the storyline of this novel of a story related to the forced sale and subsequent renaming of the Al-Uruba hotel ("Arab world", "Arabs") in the hotel "The Greatest Prophet", which may indicate the end of the national idea and the establishment of political Islam in Iraq.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that Ahmed Saadawi's novel is attractive not only for its rich and sharp plot with an unpredictable ending and a large number of well-derived typical images. "Frankenstein in Baghdad" has the features of the postmodern pastiche direction ( from the French pastiche-mixture, potpourri) - the absence of axiological priorities, i.e. an explicit assessment of events by the author, and the organization of the text as an eclectic construction.10

The text is written in the intriguing form of a "novel within a novel" - as if the reader is given the opportunity to read a text that has fallen into the hands of special services, the author of which is again being hunted. The story is narrated from different people - from the third person, from the author of the novel, from Frankenstein, who records an interview for a journalist on a dictaphone. Judging the authenticity of events and the sincerity of the characters ' words is made exclusively by the reader himself, as in the case of the love relationship in the novel by director Nawal al-Wazir and journalist Mahmoud al-Sawadi, or the alleged loss of $13 million from the newspaper's office, or the prediction that in 20 years al-Sawadi will become Prime Minister of Iraq.

But, most importantly, the novel makes you relive and understand the atmosphere of fear and hopelessness in which modern Iraqis live. It is for this, according to the general opinion of critics and literary critics, "Frankenstein in Baghdad" was highly appreciated by the Arab Booker Committee, and critics themselves called the novel a call to stop senseless bloodshed for revenge.11


* The menorah is a seven-light liturgical lamp, one of the symbols of Judaism.

1 For more information about the work of N. Mahfuz, see also: Kirpichenko V. N. Naguib Mahfuz. A small excursion into the work of a great writer / / Asia and Africa today. 2008. N 11. (Kirpichenko V.N. 2008. Naguib Mahfouz. Nebolshoi ekskurs v tvorchestvo bolshogo pisatelya // Aziya i Afrika segodnya. N 11) (in Russian); Naguib Mahfuz. Zaabalavi. Naraz / / AiAS. 2008. N 11; Zarytovskaya V. N. The forbidden novel of Naguib Mahfuz / / AiAS. 2014. N 1. (Zarytovskaya V. N. 2014. The prohibited novel of Naguib Mahfouz // Aziya i Afrika segodnya. N 1) (in Russian); Kirpichenko B. N., Mubarakova D. A. "The Message of love and tenderness" by Gamal al-Gatani / / AiAS. 2011. N 4. Kirpichenko V. N., Mubarakova D. A. 2011. Poslanie lyubvi i nezhnosti Gamalya al-Gitani / / Aziya i Afrika segodnya. N 4) (in Russian)

Lindsey U. 2 The novel after the Arab Spring // Newyorker. 08.05.2014.

3 See excerpts from the novel (abridged): Ala Al-Aswani. Yakobyan's House / / Asia and Africa Today. 2010. N 1, 2, 3. (Alaa Al-Aswany. 2010. Dom Yakobyana // Aziya i Afrika segodnya. N 1, 2, 3) (in Russian)

Trifonova E. 4 "Arab Booker" went to the Lebanese - http://golosislama.com/news.php?id=7305

Hasan H. 5 Reading "Frankenshtein in Baghdad" // Al Monitor, 18.03.2014.

Al-Mustafa N. 6 Novelist Ahmed Saadawi creates an iraqi Frankenshtein // Asharq al-awsat. 22.03.2014.

Saadawi A. 7 Frankstein fi Bagdad ("Frankenstein in Baghdad"). Beirut-Baghdad, al-Jamal. 2013, p. 352.

Al-Mustafa N. 8 Op. cit.

9 Ibidem.

Yas Kh.A. 10 Rivayat Frankstein... keifa justanau al-waqiu khurafa? (The novel "Frankenstein"... How to make a fairy tale out of reality?) -http://www.alquds.co.uk/7p-464106"464106

Kilkamesh N. 11 Trajidiya yrakiyya-kyraa fi rivayat Frankstein fi Baghdad lil qatib Ahmed Saadawi (Iraqi tragedy-reading the novel "Frankenstein in Baghdad" by Ahmed Saadawi) - http://www.ahe-war.org/debat/show.art.asp?aid=434215


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