Violence as the Abject in Iraqi Literature: Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Bushra Juhi Jani


This research examines how violence is represented as the Abject, as described by the theorist Julia Kristeva, in Powers of Horror, in Frankenstein in Baghdad, an Iraqi version of Mary Shelley’s novel by Ahmed Saadawi. This novel has a drunken scavenger who collects the body parts of those killed in explosions and stitches them together to form a body. The figure is then inhabited by a displaced soul who begins a campaign of revenge against those who killed the parts constituting its body.

I argue that this monster embodies the Abject, moral pollution or “death infecting life.” It is the power of terror. I show how Saadawi’s “the what’s-its-name”, which is how the monster is referred to in the novel, is different from Shelley’s monster, since it has no redeeming human features which we can sympathise with. This essay shows how the violence of war is presented as dehumanizing in Saadawi’s novel. I closely examine how people in the story lose their humanity and become part of a monstrous reality, living off corpses; how the novel shows that terror is an unstoppable violence that renews itself by creating more violence; and how it suggests that violence can never be stopped unless people reject terror and bury hatred, in order to have an agreed system and order: that a shared humanity can only be restored when we reject and bury the Abject.


Violence, Abject, Monster, War, Guilt, Innocence, Mass Media, Salvation .

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