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Could There Be A New Frankenstein In Town?

Mary Shelley’s iconic monster could see itself adapted to film again, but this time Frankenstein will be transported to war-torn Iraq.

Frankenstein in Baghdad book cover (Credit: Penguin Random House)

#MaryShelley’s iconic monster could see itself adapted to film again, but this time the creature and his creator, #Frankenstein, will be transported to war-torn Iraq. Reuters Arabia last week announced that Iraqi writer, Ahmed Saadawi’s award-winning novel Frankenstein in Baghdad, will be adapted to film by a heretofore unnamed British production company.

The book follows Hadi, a scavenger in US-occupied Baghdad, who collects human body parts during the 2005 bombings. He starts to stitch the parts together in order to make a creature that can avenge the deaths of his people. Unfortunately, the creature disappears and begins to wreak havoc on the small town.

Saadawi’s novel won the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (the #IPAF, considered the Arab World equivalent of the Man Booker prize), and has been translated into a number of languages. The book has been critically acclaimed, not just in the Arab World but internationally as well. Newsweek called it 'a modern, wartime version of Mary Shelley’s 1818 horror-fantasy’. Many English language readers have been looking forward to its translation in English, which Penguin Random House will be launching in January next year.

Penguin Random House Cover of 'Frankenstein in Baghdad'

The fantasy-horror elements aside, Saadawi’s main focus is life in Iraq, and this is the primary reason he has finally signed the film deal. Al Monitor quoted him saying:

‘I think that some of the people interested in the novel were attracted by the fantasy story of the main character, Frankenstein al-Baghdadi, and the police prosecution in the novel, which is suitable for a thriller and action film.

'(But) the novel has other levels, and I was keen in the negotiations with the production companies to make sure that they do not ignore these aspects.'

2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. It is considered by many as the original progenitor of the science-fiction genre in literature. Written when she was 18 years old, the book investigates the duality of humanity and monstrosity, and has spawned many artistic renditions through the years. The prevailing image of the creature remains Boris Karloff’s turn in James Whale’s 1931 Frankenstein, but recent film adaptations have seen #RobertDeNiro (in Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), #AaronEckhart (‘I, Frankenstein’), #BenedictCumberbatch (#DannyBoyle’s 2011 theatrical adaptation) and now #JavierBardem (#Universal’s upcoming #MonsterUniverse film) take on the role to varying degrees of success.

It seems apt then that Shelley’s enduring work has been transposed to a different part of the world and to a whole new audience.

Since its publication, Frankenstein in Baghdad has been greatly sought after for film, television and theatre adaptations. After turning down many offers, fans will be glad that Saadawi has finally relented and found a film company that can make his vision a reality.

While the author did not specify when filming will start, he mentioned that it is expected to begin in the next 18 months. Saadawi is the first Iraqi to win the IPAF. His latest book, The Chalk Door was published in January, 2017.

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Could There Be A New Frankenstein In Town?
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